Smt Vanitha Jayan ("Didi")
In addition to Amma, another deep influence in my life as a practitioner of dance has been Smt. Vanitha Jayan (“Didi”). Her knowledge of philosophy, symbolism, her progressive outlook towards dance are all things that make me excited to share my love of dance with others. Her emphasis on the fact that books like the Natya Shastra and other texts are meant to enable creativity - not stifle it - remains one of the guiding principles of my work.
Teaching Bharatanatyam out of the Indian context comes with a lot of forethought for me, and Didi remains my constant connection to what’s “allowed” vs. what is not. In her view, Bharatanatyam gives us the vocabulary to explore topics and issues that may be traditional or contemporary.
In addition to dance, I remember times when Didi and I would tour old Ahmedabad city to get fabrics for an upcoming production and eat water chestnuts (Singhara) on the way. Didi is also a big proponent of including one’s local environment and current events in dance, which has led to her choreographing pieces written by Narsingh Mehta, and other pieces in Gujarati. Didi is certainly one of my biggest supporters and inspiration to use Bharatanatyam for creative aging.
My name is Sloka. I am a neuroscientist and Bharatanatyam dancer; you can find more about me here.