Of classical dance and women's emancipation

Of classical dance and women's emancipation

Of classical dance and women's emancipation

Having trained for a littleover a year in Bharatanatyam, Dr Alexandra Szokeis of the view that India’s spiritual culture should have already taken women to an all new height altogether, finds out I J Saldanha-Shet .    

“Bharatanatyam- dance musical version of the Bhagavad Gita is an amazing synergy of dance, theatre, and music …. an Indian celebration of the divine human spirit!"
Dr Alexandra Szoke (her original family name), born in Budapest, Hungary, completed her PhD in social anthropology in Hungary and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. She moved to Mangalore 18 months ago, accompanying her husband, Ian Cook, who is doing research in Mangalore as part of his a PhD in social anthropology at the Central European University in Hungary. Their interaction in Hampi and love for Kannada has given them great enthusiasm.

Asked why the interest in Bharatanatyam, Alexa explains, "When I moved to Mangalore and was writing my doctoral thesis, my days were spent chained to the computer and I was going a bit crazy. I used to dance ballet until I was about 16 and have always regretted stopping. Joining Bharata-natyam classes seemed like a good way to rekindle my interest in dance and give me a welcome break. I loved it. My guru, Sharadamani Shekar, has been a real inspiration in more ways than one."

Dr Alexa is a shy and petite, yet a strong personality. Very humane and a great listener, she compliments her tall husband, Ian, for being outgoing and empathetic by nature. Both have taken a keen interest in the ancient history and local traditions and customs. Alexa’s first experience of Bharatanatyam came a little earlier than a year ago when she joined Sanathana Natyalaya Mangalore, who were organising a series of performances to mark their anniversary. She instantly fell in love with Indian classical dance, thanks to the enthusiasm, warmth and love shown by her Guru Sharadamani Shekar, and under whose guidance she became drawn into the world of Bharatanatyam.

Dr Alexa strongly feels distressed for women in India who have not been able to take a higher place in society in spite of the strong culture through such ancient sanatana spiritual forms of dance and so on. 

About their stay in Mangalore Alexa says, both she and her husband found it most fruitful, and they made every attempt to experience many aspects which have given them durable insights. She is all set to offer a humble recital of the classical dance pieces she learnt. The performance will be on Saturday June 22, at 6 PM, at Sanathana Natyalaya, Shree Devi College Road, Ballalbagh, Mangalore. She expressly thanks Sanathana Natyalaya for the opportunity to perform and also to Radhika Shetty, founder of Nrityaangan Charitable Trust and performing artiste in India and the USA, for her friendship, support and inspiring teaching. The tremendous encouragement Dr Alexa received in her endeavours in Mangalore will be the most memorable aspect of her time here, she says.

About her continuing to study Bharatanatyam she says, "I truly hope I will be able to continue. I've been dancing for only 15 months, and not enough time to learn very much. I searched online and found a Hungarian dancer who spent a long time in Chennai learning Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music and she gives lessons, so hopefully I can carry on learning with her help. Although of course it won't be the same as in India, the whole cultural environment is very important. I thank every one concerned."

Ian and Alexa will be leaving at the end of June and both are very sad about it. They’re already searching for ways to come back and Alexa hopes that the Bharatnatyam performance will be a special way to say goodbye!