Albert Einstein said, “Dancers are the athletes of God.” Completing Masters degree in Software Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, Gomathi Manoj is a Bharatnatyam performing artiste, dance teacher, choreographer and the Artistic Director of Saundarya Natya Kalalaya, New Jersey. She has learned this Indian classical art form for 22 years and has over 300 performances to her credit, staged in various parts of India and also in USA, Singapore, Kingdom of Bahrain and Greece.
Gomathi continues to learn this performing art under the guidance of Guru Smt. Padmini Radhakrishnan and serves as a torch-bearer to this premier institution at New Jersey, USA. She also holds the ‘Nritya Visharad’ in dance from Shree Vallabh Sangeetalaya, Mumbai and is currently pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) from Kalai Kaveri College of Fine Arts, Trichy, India.
Gomathi stepped into the world of dance in the age of 8 with support of her parents and gradually she nurtured her passion in 3 different Indian classical dance forms such as Bharatnatyam, Mohiniattam and Kuchipudi. With her Guru’s blessings, Gomathi chose to indulge in her passion as a career and thus began a new chapter of the institution at New Jersey, USA. She currently teaches students at 4 different locations spread in North and Central Jersey areas. She has trained over 200 students in the years.
It is a proud moment for Gomathi Manoj who was chosen as the State Ambassador for Indian Classical Dance from New Jersey by Indian Raga in January 2017.
Titles conferred to her are:
- “Singar Mani” in 2007 by Sur Singar Samsad, Mumbai.
- “Nritya Shivali” in 2009 by Shivali Cultural Society, Mumbai.
Her notable awards while in India are:
- Citation of Participation at ‘Nritya Surabhi’ festival in 2004 by Nateshwar Nritya Kala Mandir.
- Awarded the legendary and prestigious Pt. A. T. Govindaraj Pillai Rolling Trophy for the ‘Best Classical Dancer’ in 2004 by the University of Mumbai.
- Secured First Prize in Pandit Vishnu Digambur Paluskar Classical Dance Dance Competitions hosted by Sharda Sangeet Vidyalaya, Mumbai.
- How did you get the interest in learning Bharatanatyam dance and how did the journey
The journey of dance started when I was initiated into learning the art form by my parents at the age of 8 – specifically because it was my mother’s desire to learn classical dance herself. Both my maternal grandmother and my mother have trained in Carnatic music for several years however they couldn’t pursue it professionally. When my mother introduced me into classical dance & music training, her primary focus was to give me wholesome art education as much as mainstream education. So my parents searched up for a good Bharatanatyam Guru in
Kingdomof Bahrain (in the Middle East), where they spent almost 3 decades of their working life and thus began my dance training. The interest in the art form was nurtured again by my dance Gurus as well as my parents. Both my parents are art lovers and they enjoy attending Indian classical music & dance concerts. My father was a member inall the major Indo-Bahrain cultural organizations & my mother has had the opportunity to accompany a few musicians during their concerts. Hence, as kids, my brother and I have spent our childhoods listening & witnessing concerts of stalwarts whenever they would visit Bahrain for concerts like great musical legends – Pandit Shri Shivkumar Sharma and Shri Rahul Sharma, Shri T N Seshagopalan, Shri Hariprasad Chaurasia, Late Shri Jagjit Singh as well dance legends like Natyaarcharya Shri Dhananjayan and his troupe, Guru Chitra Visweswaran to name a few.
Every year, it was a family tradition to participate in the community classical dance & music competitions as well as the Annual Thyagaraja Aradhana Celebrations and that kindled the interest from an early age. Even after moving back to India for higher studies, my parents’ ensured that dance education never took a back seat as they never wanted me to stop pursuing it.
- Being an engineer did u find any difficulties managing your dance carrier and your education?
I have always continued my dance training even through school, college and corporate profession years. By doing so, it has helped me grow as an individual because it obviously means multitasking in a demanding schedule, prioritizing multiple deadlines as well as being able to spend time practicing and performing
dance. I have taken a break from dance whenever my board or University exams were due. But overall, I would say learning an art form in parallel has been a stress buster as well when you want to take a break from hectic exam schedules or project deadlines.
- You are indulged in 3 different types of dances, what pros and cons did you face while learning and executing the different dance forms?
When I began my dance training, the main dance style was Bharatanatyam. Only after 5-6 years of training in it, I was introduced to the Mohiniattam dance style. Under the guidance of my then Gurus Kalamandalam Smt. Girija Menon and Shri Sasi Menon, I advanced in my training in all 3 classical dance styles – Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi as well as traditional folk. The advantages were multifold – like getting exposure in various traditional classical forms which are integral to our Indian culture & heritage even though you are staying abroad. The importance of being an all-rounder in these dance styles positively piqued my interest to be able to pursue it even later in life. It helps increase your knowledge on the subject as well as prepares you to adapt to any kind of dance choreography or even style – not restricted to just pure classical. You refine your dance skills when you learn multiple classical styles. Even after I moved to Mumbai & began my Bharatanatyam training under my current Guru- Smt. Padmini Radhakrishnan, she encouraged me to continue pursuing my other styles and not only focus on one. I wouldn’t say -disadvantage, the only points one needs to keep in mind are, developing the maturity to understand the subtle differences in each dance style as one continues training and being careful enough to not mix the styles. Because when you mix all styles together, you move away from being a good dancer.
- How do you manage your regular life along with your dance life?
The mornings in my regular life are spent as a homemaker to ensure my family is well taken care of. Having said that, it is also the time spent preparing and catching up for my evening dance classes for my students every day. I enjoy what I do now as this is my passion when I get to teach my students the same way I
learntand be able to perform with them. I am also continuing my dance studies not to miss out training with my Gurus. Like I mentioned earlier, setting up a schedule that works for everyone takes time to shape up. It’s only possible when you have support from all corners – be it your family, the parents of the dance school as well as the students not to forget the well-wishers who are instrumental for your success.
- Whom do you give the credit of your achievements and the position you hold today in the field of dance?
I still have a lot to learn in dance and even more to accomplish in life but whatever I have
learntthus far is definitely due to the guidance and unrelenting support of my parents and all my Gurus. Thanks to their support, I am able to showcase what they taught me in life. I have many cherished memories right from childhood days when my family would accompany me starting with my performances or competitions to show their moral support (in Bahrain, India or in the USA) as well as now for my students’ presentations. It’s all their blessings. From the last decade, I have also had the added support of my husband and daughter who understand my busy dance school and performance schedules at times. Along with me even they have tread that additional mile in order to keep the show running.
- Any suggestions you would like to give the budding dancers so that one day they get such a place you stand today?
Never cut short your initial training years in an attempt to reach a milestone faster. It’s been said enough that – there are no shortcuts to hard work and that alone will drive your journey. Undoubtedly believe in your Guru’s training and guidance because that is the sole effort which will take you a long way. Training in the traditional Guru-Sishya mode of learning is the best knowledge one could ask for. Each person’s journey is theirs to own so it’s up to you to shape it the way you want. Initiating yourself into any style of art form should be a type of lifelong commitment that you sign up for. So never stop learning, always practice even though you feel you know your compositions well. Only performing should not be a student’s goal, even watching other dancers or musicians during workshops or recitals teaches us abundantly. Take out time to witness concerts and show your support to the art community.
Samragyee Kashyap is an established Sattriya danseuse of Guwahati, Assam. She also pursues her dancing with Bihu and other folk dances of Assam in recognised stages and events. Besides dancing, Samragyee is also into acting and have showcased her acting skills in theatre stages. Presently, Samragyee Kashyap is associated with Amrapali (Society for ARTS) and contributing her writing skills with Amrapali Magazine.