By Kshirja Govind
“No matter what, as dancers, we should all bond well and become a cohesive unit to bounce energy off each other. This simple advice went on to become the unofficial motto of our India trip. The energy we were bouncing of each other between dancers, between the dancers and the musicians, and between the artists and the audience, the atmosphere in the theatre could only be described as electric. We danced with so much joy in our hearts and kept our energy high till the very end,” says Kshirja Govind in her travel diary about the December 2019 trip to India.
Whilst Alapadma was a world-famous production, having already travelled to so many different countries and performed by different combinations of people, I had only made acquaintance with it towards the later part of 2019. I had heard so much about this production, the stories and cherished memories that came along with it as well as the trials it had put other dancers through, so I was both excited and a little nervous to see how it challenged our group!
Most of us were new to the company then and so the India tour in 2019 was our first tour ever. We were super excited and even whilst learning the production, I marvelled at the depth of thought put into the simple Alapadma mudra as well as the opportunity it had brought for us, a chance to dance at the prestigious Music Academy. Dancing at the Music Academy is a dream for every dancer and so to think we would finally have that dream come true was an incredible feeling. Dancers who had previously toured with the company had told us something casually but regularly since Day 1: no matter what, as dancers, we should all bond well and become a cohesive unit to bounce energy off each other. This simple advice went on to become the unofficial motto of our trip. We had made sure to keep each other smiling and positive and had really become family.
Just remembering how much fun we had during this trip brings a smile to my face. The buzz of excitement begun from the moment we stepped off the plane! Whilst all of us knew each other before joining the company, being able to stay together under one roof and be with each other 24/7 really strengthened our bond. From the half-asleep, speed sari tying in the mornings to the delicious South Indian breakfasts that welcomed our exhausted selves after every rehearsal to the gatherings and random dance/practice sessions in our rooms. The entire experience felt like a dream and was fascinating. Alongside all the other emotions of awe, wonder and gratitude, we felt this child-like glee too, as if we were school children again and got to share rooms with our best friends.
The night before the show, we went to the Music Academy stage. We were all just in awe of the space. Were we standing on the same stage that the dancers we have grown up idolising have danced on? In that moment, we were all too overwhelmed to speak. Of course, we then promptly erupted into a childish curiosity of anything and everything around us. As we rehearsed, one of the wings, where most of our entries and exits were to occur from, was completely blocked off by a backstage rig of some sort. When we asked about it, we were informed that it would be moved afterwards and so we continued practising, marking positions, and getting mentally prepared to dance the next day. Despite all of us slowly falling sick due to some of us being sick prior to the tour, we refused to let anything dampen our spirits.
I still remember, on the show day itself, as the last few of us were putting on our chalangai, a couple of girls who had left to be on standby in the wings returned panicked. The stage rig had not been moved and was blocking the entire wing. The wings in front of it were taken up by the musicians so that wasn’t an option either. Essentially, the entry and exits from that side had become completely inaccessible. In the duet of all of us coughing backstage and us speaking to the backstage crew about the situation, we suddenly heard a third harmony. Seating had begun and people were pouring in. Naturally, our panic accelerated into hyperdrive. Fortunately, after moving the rig a little so there was space for at least a person at a time, we were able to come up with a quick game plan to keep things running smoothly.
The show went off superbly and whilst we were all there as a group, dancing with one unified breath, nothing else seemed to matter. Dancing on the Music Academy stage was surreal. We often hear about the power of dance, how it can move not only the dancer but also the audience and this show was exemplary of that. The energy we were bouncing of each other between dancers, between the dancers and the musicians, and between the artists and the audience, the atmosphere in the theatre could only be described as electric. We danced with so much joy in our hearts and kept our energy high till the very end. The warmth I felt in my heart, that we all felt after that show was worth everything.