Natyalaya 40th Anniversary Alumni Reunion: A Student Perspective – Manjula

Natyalaya 40th Anniversary Alumni Reunion: A Student Perspective – Manjula

Embarking on my journey at Natyalaya two decades ago in 2005, little did I know that it would become an integral part of my life, shaping me in more ways than I could have imagined. Reflecting on those early days riding my bike to the Tilghman House brings a rush of nostalgia. It marked the beginning of a journey filled with the beauty of Bharatanatyam and the warmth of a second family.

Sharing some of my fondest memories below:

In my very first class, I experienced the kindness of Anu (Nelliperambil) Akka, who made me pancakes when Amma was delayed in picking me up. It was a small gesture that spoke volumes about the supportive and caring atmosphere that defines Natyalaya.

Summer camps were not just about mastering dance moves; they were joyous occasions spent with Narendra Anna, Anusha Akka, and Suma Aunty. It was a time of shared laughter, learning, and forging lasting friendships within our dance community.

Performing at the prestigious Long Center was a significant milestone, a privilege I now appreciate more than ever. Those moments under the spotlight instilled in me a sense of accomplishment and reverence for the art form.

Watching the older girls practice for their Arangetram filled me with excitement and anticipation for my own. The dedication and long hours of preparation shaped my understanding of commitment and perseverance.

The practices at the Pond Springs Studio hold a special place in my memory. Amid our dedication to perfecting our routines, there were comical instances, like attempting to catch an imaginary presence upstairs with prop swords in hand.

Growing my hair long for the Arangetram became a symbol of dedication, though explaining the tradition to friends at school was a bridge between my two worlds, showcasing the cultural richness of Bharatanatyam.

In college, dance became not only an art form but also a means to connect and form friendships. One of the most memorable experiences was traveling to India to perform across temples and venues in Hyderabad, Chennai, Tanjore, Banaglore, and Irinjalakuda. It was a remarkable opportunity that deepened my connection to the roots of Bharatanatyam, re-connected me to Natyalaya, and allowed me an amazing travel experience.

Subsequently, dancing in productions back home introduced a new chapter, where I unintentionally became an older figure to the little ones, accidentally getting called “aunty,” marking the passage of time and growth.

Last, but definitely not least, have been the countless times Vinitha Aunty told us stories, shared her wisdom, joked with us, and was patient with us while we slowly tried to master Bharatanatyam. Vinitha Aunty’s exceptional ability to infuse the magic of Bharatanatyam into our lives transformed learning into a lifelong journey.

Natyalaya has been more than a dance studio; it has been a conduit for lifelong friendships, invaluable opportunities, cherished memories with remarkable mentors and peers, and an art form that will stay with me for a lifetime.