Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Ever since I remember consciously engaging with the material world, dancing has had this unusual force of attraction for me. I was 10 when I had spent a year immersing beautifully into learning Kathak and Bollywood at the same time. But synonymous with a middle-class Indian family, I was made to prioritize “academics” over “arts”. What would you make of learning dancing anyway? How is that going to make you “wealthy”? Years went by and I made the most of all opportunities that came my way slowly figuring out that at the very core of my heart, I am a healer. I love empowering others around me to achieve their best potential! Social entrepreneurship gave a deep ring to it. As I went through the struggles and heartbreaks of life- something about the magnetic pull of dancing always drew me back.
The subtle feeling of the rhythms of the music in your soul that your body channelizes to express lured me back to it. On my 27th b’ day, I decided that I would to renew that hidden dream as a little girl of lighting the stage up with fire. The question then is- Why belly dancing? When I used to slog 18 hours of my day being a nerd for my 12th boards, my only respite was watching 50 minutes of Dance India Dance on weekends.
And on that very one weekend, I watched Meher Malik perform her very first piece on national television. That spark that she lit on screen lingered with me for 10 whole years. It took me 10 whole years to tell myself that I loved the way she moved and when I went back researching, I found that the Banjara School of Dance was a powerhouse of trained professional dancers producing some inspiring content in the sphere of oriental dancing with a twist of Indian fusion to it. I immediately inquired about classes in Mumbai and I was fortunate that I connected with Damini Sahay, the most invested teacher and my official guru ever since I quit Kathak as a 10-year-old.
My journey started at the beginners’ level and I instantly fell in love with the philosophy and culture followed by Damini Sahay. She explained to me and my batch the roots of the dance form seemed akin to the bond that a mother has with a child- unbreakable.
Thereafter, we progressed to different levels of classes until a point where I just felt a little part of me was not syncing with the wavelength of the dancing language. I used to also feel very intimidated because I was starting from scratch at 27 and then there were so many advanced dancers around me for years together. There were moments when I would feel like I was giving 100 percent but was just not able to channelise my energy around my teacher’s feedback! The pointing of toes, the sharpness of the arabesque, and the thoroughness of the expressions sometimes created a deep sense of what one would call “the performance pressure”. Until my teacher broke it down to very simple terms of the journey each dancer goes through and organized ballet sessions by Aarti Gamba where I reconnected as a mover, a body in motion, before going into dancing. I do not know yet if I would become a super-duper professional and I soon realized that it was not important to know this at the very beginning of the journey either.
Even during the pandemic, with the multitude of workload we are juggling, I keep getting connected back to the circle is that Damini has homogenized us into a community of movers and thinkers. The idea isn’t to just learn and move on but to internalize and give this form a meaning of your own. Imagine- when you get a school, a structure to an art form so misconstrued by the society- why would you not stick through it?
Staying connected to Damini and Junkeri has broken all my myths about the dance form. I have also spent a significant amount of time in Dubai visiting my family, During this period, I observed the desert safari tourist looking at the Desert Belly Dancers in the light of sexual enticement whereas I was just in awe of the movement of their muscles. It is hard to summarize in a blog what Damini and Junkeri offer us in Mumbai and I would rest the case by saying that there is a sheer delight of depth and impact you savour in her classes. After all the deep thinking that she does, the least we can do is stick through and fight our demons to be better students, eh? So, if the pandemic is depressing you- come to the Junkeri family because you are bound to feel enriched and transformed not only as a dancer but also as a human.