Multi-talented Tiruchi artist Sandhya shares her knowledge with underprivileged children
Tiruchy resident and artist T. Sandhya teaches government school students free of cost. , Photo Credit: M Moorthy
T Sandhya walks her silambam staff and shows her students moves on the grounds of the Pudukottai Palace in Tiruchy. Dressed in Bharatanatyam attire, she attracts attention not only as a martial arts teacher, but also as a dancer.
“People often wonder why I chose to learn Silambam (the ceremonial folk art of stick-fighting), karate and Bharatanatyam together. After all, how can martial arts be compared to classical dance? But if you look carefully, there is a certain ‘nalinam’ (elegance) in all three,” says Sandhya.
The 23-year-old started training in silambam and karate under her guru Karthik Raghunath, who also taught her Bharatanatyam, when she was in senior school. Sandhya says, “My guru is my mentor and is like a foster father to me, who has always guided me.”
She followed home-based dance training by joining degree programs in Bharatanatyam at Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts, Tiruchi. One of his Masters course projects was a comparative study of the 20 ‘adavas’ (gestures) of Bharatanatyam and Silambam.
Sandhya is currently pursuing M.Phil in Dance from Tamil University in Thanjavur, where she is doing research on five folk dances – Sakkai Attam, And youKutchi Attam, oyilattam, kolattam And karagattam of Tiruchi district. “Every folk dance has variations that are intrinsic to the region, which is interesting to watch,” says Sandhya.
He is also skilled in playing the Parai Dhol.
busy as a bee
The evenings are full of lessons for others and for ourselves.
Starting with Silambam classes from 6 am to 7 am, she leaves for Thanjavur for Bharatanatyam lessons at 9 am. She leaves for karate and dance classes soon after returning to Tiruchi in the afternoon, and engages in practice sessions till 8 pm. “I teach Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays, I seek out mentors to upgrade my knowledge of dance,” she says.
She teaches silambam and dance to the children of two government schools for free, while charging a nominal fee for private lessons.
“I feel performing arts make students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds more confident, especially when they get a chance to share the stage with more privileged families. In any performance, only your skill counts,” Sandhya says.
Sandhya has so far taught Silambam to 100 students, Bharatanatyam to 80 and Karate to 70.
Enrollment in Silambam classes has increased after the Tamil Nadu government named it as one of the sports to be included for the recruitment of 3% sports quota in government departments and public sector undertakings.
Children’s behavior is influenced by their day at school, says Sandhya. “Lockdown has made many children phone addicts. Even a short warm-up exhausts them, so I’ve had to adjust my teaching methods.”
his own goal is to learn Sakkai Attam And lezim dances this year and does well in it ettu kutchi attam Lesson.
“I take pride in seeing my students perform well in state competitions, as I feel my efforts have paid off. All the scolding and tears during rehearsals are worth it,” she laughs.