Thangachi’s Corner: Dance Culture

Updated every other Wednesday, “Thangachi’s Corner” is a bi-monthly feature that discusses relatable topics and issues relevant to the Canadian Tamil youth of today. For more information about this feature or to suggest a topic, feel free to e-mail us at!

Written By: Keerthana Raveendran

When most people talk about their love of dance, they make it sound as if it were love at first sight. As if it were an instinct that sprung to life at first step—almost as if the art form was a part of their very being.

But when I first started learning dance at the age of four, I absolutely hated it. Back then, in the nineties, every Tamil girl had to learn how to dance. It was just the thing, though I couldn’t for the life of me understand the beauty of the form. After all, it was hard to feel graceful when it felt like my muscles were being torn apart slowly. And as a kid enrolled in Bharathanatyam classes with about twenty other girls, standing in a row and stomping my feet to the beat of an angry lady hitting a wooden stick on a plank didn’t seem like much fun.

And I wasn’t the only one either. In fact, I distinctly remember being in a particular group of friends at dance class at around the age of nine, and the one thread that brought us all together was that fact that we just couldn’t wait to quit.

Really, no joke.

When one of us did finally manage to quit, when one of us didn’t show up to class for the next few weeks, the rest of us would experience an unpleasant mixture of jealousy and reluctant fascination.

In any case, I was never one of those lucky few—no, my dance history went on for years (mostly because much choice wasn’t allotted where that was concerned), and I grew up slowly coming to terms with the fact that I was in it for the long run.

It wasn’t until much later that I became invested in dance culture. Was it the performance aspect, do you wonder? Did I perhaps enjoy adorning that gorgeously crafted traditional attire and showcasing my hard-earned skills before a crowd?

Nope—performance was my nightmare. But if you asked a dancer what about the art form they loved, they would all give you a different answer. And for me, it was the history that never failed to fascinate.

Sure, I enjoyed the crisp visual aesthetics, and I came to appreciate the harsh movements which became a stress reliever long before I realized I needed one. I even loved the aspect of choreography, and would find myself drift off to random music during long bus rides before catching myself choreographing steps to the tune in my mind.

But I suppose I liked most the idea of being linked to people well before my time. I liked learning about the evolution of dance over the years, and feeling a sort of connection to these ancestors I will never get a chance to meet.

I don’t think I expected for dance to become such an integral part of my life. I’m not sure if anyone does at that age—it’s just something that sneaks up on you. But in light of the successful execution of CTYA’s recent Thaalam 2014, it’s hard to ignore the element of dance when defining our Tamil culture. After all, culture isn’t simply limited to language or festivities—the arts too play a key role in shaping our identity as a society.

As renowned Bharathanatyam icon Smt. Rukmini Devi once said, “Dance is a very difficult art to muster, not merely because it has so much to do with physical movements but because the responsibility of the artist is far greater in this art than in any other.” Perhaps that’s also what makes the form worthwhile.

A history in dance is not something that just goes away, even years after your last class. It’s in your brain every time you listen to a particularly captivating beat. It’s in that terrible foot-tapping habit you’ve got—the one your mother hates and is always telling you to quit. It’s in your weird tendency to break into a step at the oddest situations. But dance is a reflex now, completely unconscious, done in instinct and born from a restlessness that has now become second nature.

Even if you did hate it when you started.

About the Author:

Keerthana Raveendran, known by her flock as Thangachi, is an aspiring author whose motivation to write usually kicks in when she’s supposed to be occupied elsewhere. She is an avid procrastinator who sees potential novel ideas as movies in her head. Maybe one of these days they’ll make it onto the page. Thangachi is currently a Masters student studying English at York University.



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