Dance academy

Soon a free dance academy for trans people in Chennai – The New Indian Express

Express press service

CHENNAI: It’s not often you watch an invocation dance performance by a trans woman in a room full of office bearers – all trans people – of Sahodaran and its other community organizations such as Thozhi, Snegithi and Indian Transgender Initiative, in Chenai. With her five-minute number representing Rama Natakam, dancer Vanitha captured our attention. “How is her dancing different from female dancers? She is equally graceful and expressive. But, she was denied the opportunity to learn this art form only because she was born male. We all grew up in a similar situation and this continues to be the case,” whispered a trans woman, sitting next to me at the Gokulam Park Hotel on Monday.

An essential step

The trans woman never expected her community’s unfulfilled collective dreams would soon see the light of day. Thanks to Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust, based in Kerala, who announced the launch of their Chennai Chapter with a free dance academy for the transgender community. The non-profit government organization collaborated with Sahodaran for technical support.

“We opened a dance school in Ernakulam last month. Thirty-six out of 65 trans people were selected and had the chance to learn from legendary teachers like Gayathri Subramanian and Gopika Verma. They have already completed four classes. There is a dance school run by a trans teacher in Kottayam. She will also come to learn Bharatanatyam in Ernakulam. Art can transform lives and no one should be deprived of their right to learn because of their gender. All seekers are equal to us. Besides this, our next project in Chennai will be a free dialysis centre,” explains KN Anand Kumar, founder of the NGO.

The Chennai School of Dance is expected to be set up in T Nagar with the official inauguration taking place on June 10, 2022. More than seven trans women, from across the city, have expressed their interest in joining the classes.

“Narthaki Nataraj has already started the ball rolling in the realm of Bharatanatyam. She is an inspiration to all. We are roped in with established dancers to teach our trans women. We hope to start with 10 passionate and determined trans women. Eventually we will expand and include other social activities. The aim is to give them a platform and tap into their long-spent potential. We have scheduled one or two classes per week. If all goes well, it can even help them earn a living,” says Sunil Menon, founder of Sahodaran.

Purpose and passion

Among the many people whose prayers were answered with this project was Vanitha who wowed us with her captivating performance. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Bharatanatyam at Tamil Nadu University of Music and Fine Arts.

“I learned to dance with Ponni, another trans woman, for four years. But I had to stop because she moved to another place. To make sure I kept in touch with the dance, I signed up in this course and the faculty was extremely empathetic. And, thanks to Sahodaran, I had the opportunity to participate in receptions. I was never allowed to dance when I lived under the roof of my parents. They disapproved of me, because it showed my feminine side, while others appreciated my skills. If I had started my lessons early, I would have reached greater heights. Even today, I need a donor to help me buy my costumes. I’m waiting for the day when I can teach students,” she laments.

Despite possessing an innate talent, many trans women are rarely nurtured, recognized, or given the opportunity to learn during their formative years. Priyanka, another trans woman, moved to Chennai when she was 20. After another 20 years, she is finally convinced that the academy could do wonders for the struggling community.

“Most of us in the community like to dance. Television was the easiest way to imitate our favorite actors and replicate the moves. Like many, I was not allowed to enter a conventional classroom. I was refused a place in a popular dance school in town, saying there was no place for trans people. Not much has changed over the years, but there is still hope. You must either know an influential person or be part of a well-known organization to take your chances. We don’t have the money to pay and play. All we ask for is a space to present what we have,” she points out.

Apart from nurturing their passion, Sunil believes the academy could be where they find their calling. “For a community that is still struggling with its share of stigma and discrimination from society for the most part, this is indeed an important step. It could be a great way to integrate them into spaces and performances general public. We have trans women who will come from Kelambakkam, Ennore and all parts of Chennai. Transportation will become cumbersome and expensive. We don’t want them to run out of energy and lose interest. All these factors come into play for them to even be able to pursue their dreams. We will do our best to help them in any way we can,” he shares.

new beginnings

A dozen passionate trans dancers expressed their interest in the program. The dance school is expected to be set up in T Nagar and the official inauguration will take place on June 10, 2022. The school in Kerala started last month and trains around 36 dancers.

CHENNAI: It’s not often you watch an invocation dance performance by a trans woman in a room full of office bearers – all trans people – of Sahodaran and its other community organizations such as Thozhi, Snegithi and Indian Transgender Initiative, in Chenai. With her five-minute number representing Rama Natakam, dancer Vanitha captured our attention. “How is her dancing different from female dancers? She is equally graceful and expressive. But, she was denied the opportunity to learn this art form only because she was born male. We all grew up in a similar situation and this continues to be the case,” whispered a trans woman, sitting next to me at the Gokulam Park Hotel on Monday. A much-needed step The trans woman never expected her community’s unfulfilled collective dreams would soon see the light of day. Thanks to Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust, based in Kerala, who announced the launch of their Chennai Chapter with a free dance academy for the transgender community. The non-profit government organization collaborated with Sahodaran for technical support. “We opened a dance school in Ernakulam last month. Thirty-six out of 65 trans people were selected and had the chance to learn from legendary teachers like Gayathri Subramanian and Gopika Verma. They have already completed four classes. There is a dance school run by a trans teacher in Kottayam. She will also come to learn Bharatanatyam in Ernakulam. Art can transform lives and no one should be deprived of their right to learn because of their gender. All seekers are equal to us. Besides this, our next project in Chennai will be a free dialysis centre,” explains KN Anand Kumar, founder of the NGO. The Chennai School of Dance is expected to be set up in T Nagar with the official inauguration taking place on June 10, 2022. More than seven trans women, from across the city, have expressed their interest in joining the classes. “Narthaki Nataraj has already started the ball rolling in the realm of Bharatanatyam. She is an inspiration to all. We are roped in with established dancers to teach our trans women. We hope to start with 10 passionate and determined trans women. Eventually we will expand and include other social activities. The aim is to give them a platform and tap into their long-spent potential. We have scheduled one or two classes per week. If all goes well, it can even help them earn a living,” says Sunil Menon, founder of Sahodaran. Purpose and passion Among the many people whose prayers were answered with this project was Vanitha who wowed us with her captivating performance. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Bharatanatyam at Tamil Nadu University of Music and Fine Arts. “I learned to dance with Ponni, another trans woman, for four years. But I had to stop because she moved to another place. To make sure I kept in touch with the dance, I signed up in this course and the faculty was extremely empathetic. And, thanks to Sahodaran, I had the opportunity to participate in receptions. I was never allowed to dance when I lived under the roof of my parents. They disapproved of me, because it showed my feminine side, while others appreciated my skills. If I had started my lessons early, I would have reached greater heights. Even today, I need a donor to help me buy my costumes. I look forward to the day when I can teach students,” she laments. Although they have an innate talent, many trans women are rarely encouraged, recognized or given opportunity to learn during their formative years. Priyanka, another trans woman, moved to Chennai to l 20 years old. After another 20 years, she is finally convinced that the academy could do wonders for the struggling community. “Most of us in the community like to dance. Television was the easiest way to imitate our favorite actors and replicate the moves. Like many, I was not allowed to enter a conventional classroom. I was refused a place in a popular dance school in town, saying there was no place for trans people. Not much has changed over the years, but there is still hope. You must either know an influential person or be part of a well-known organization to take your chances. We don’t have the money to pay and play. All we ask for is a space to present what we have,” she points out. Apart from nurturing their passion, Sunil believes the academy could be where they find their calling. “For a community that is still struggling with its share of stigma and discrimination from society for the most part, this is indeed an important step. It could be a great way to integrate them into spaces and performances general public. We have trans women who will come from Kelambakkam, Ennore and all parts of Chennai. Transportation will become cumbersome and expensive. We don’t want them to run out of energy and lose interest. All these factors come into play for them to even be able to pursue their dreams. We will do our best to help them in any way we can,” he shares. The dance school is expected to be set up in T Nagar and the official inauguration will take place on June 10, 2022. The school in Kerala started last month and trains around 36 dancers.