Just over 3 weeks ago, I was on the stage of the Eventim Apollo – I was awarded the Best Female Bhangra Dancer of the night, and then more importantly our team, the University of Birmingham (UoB), actually won TBSX.
As I was coming off that stage 3 weeks ago, an anxiety kicked in. All that time I was so focused on Showdown rehearsals that I did not have time to think about the fact that I was also competing at the Tamil Dance Championship in three weeks time, I had to get a team of 20 ready from scratch.
I was nervous at the thought of getting a performance ready which had to best represent the amazing dance talent at UoB. Furthermore, this was going to be my first time choreographing for a dance competition. This was stressful as it was, and then to be responsible for the fact that this was going to be UoB’s first time taking part in a Tamil dance competition, under my leadership.
Regardless of all these fears, with a lot of hard work over the past three weeks, and with commitment from my team, we pulled off a routine which wowed both the judges and the audience. Therefore, Team UoB walked off that stage with not one but two trophies: ‘Audience Favourite’ and the ultimate ‘TDC 2017 University Champions’.
My first time as a choreographer for a dance competition was definitely stressful. I did not have anyone to fall back on. I had to think of a concept, music, choreo, formations and costumes on my own, which was a struggle. Why was it such a struggle? It was because I was nervous that I had to create a piece which a wider audience, than just university students, had to enjoy. This was what was running through my mind. Over the past few years, I have witnessed several Tamil dance show performances but I felt like many of the performances were more suited to one type of audience – the university students. I did not want this to be the case with my choreography. I wanted my routine to be relatable to all age groups ranging from the children all the way to the grandmothers and grandfathers. Therefore I had to come out of the mindset of being merely a university student. From the concept to the music to the choreography, I had to think three times more than I usually would to ensure every single member of the audience enjoyed our performance. It was a challenge, but it was worth all the time and effort of background work that I had put in, when I had audience members from a range of age groups come up to me congratulating me on how much they enjoyed the performance.
I have been teaching dance for a few years now. I started off as a Bharathanatya dance teacher at the age of 16. Then after a short break, I got back into teaching a whole new style of dancing at university which I was not familiar with – Gaana. Teaching university students was scary because I never really knew how seriously they would take a small girl of their own age. However, as months went by, I got more and more comfortable with teaching.
I love teaching now. And I found out how much I love teaching dance during the three weeks of preparation we did for this competition. I get a kick out of teaching. The moment an individual understands and is able to execute a move exactly the way I want it to be, I feel over the moon. I want to keep teaching them more and more. This is exactly how I felt during TDC rehearsals. Many of the dancers I was working with had never done a stage show before let alone a serious dance competition, so to train them to an extent that they were able to believe in and channel that professional dancer within them and smash our performance last Saturday was the biggest victory to each and every one of them as well as to me as their choreographer. Most importantly, to see how far each and every one of them have come, not only as dancers but as individuals is what makes me feel that much more accomplished.
I was extremely militant with my team. Honestly, I have never been this brutally honest or strict with anyone before. I was worried that they were going to take it personally and would feel disheartened to dance. But the complete opposite happened. They became that much more motivated, and committed themselves 100 times more than I had ever expected.
I did not know what to make of a dance competition amongst Tamil people. I was very used to the Bhangra competition scenes and also earlier this academic year got some exposure to the Bollywood competition scene. For me taking part in a Tamil dance competition was a whole new venture. Extremely nervous as I was, I honestly couldn’t wait to show off what I had created with my team! I couldn’t wait to show everyone that however much I loved different dance styles, I was always very much Tamil in the way I conducted myself and my team.
I loved every moment of that stage. I realised that my ability to dance and act all came from my love for my culture – being Tamil! I believed in my Tamil-ness and tried my best to get my team to feel the same, which is what they did and I couldn’t have been more proud of how well they represented the Tamil culture (especially considering the fact that a good few of them were non-Tamils).
In the past month, my two dance teams taught me one thing: A winning team comprises of motivation, passion, hard work, love and importantly no ego. Let’s create pieces of art which inspire others to do even more!