"I didn’t discover Odissi, rather it was always hidden within me. Only when I encountered it, it fit me like a perfect piece of dress," says Italian citizen Elena Catalano. She holds a doctorate in philosophy. But she found her answers in Odissi dance at the feet of Kelucharan Mohapatra.
Justin McCarthy is the head of the Bharatnatyam Department at the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, New Delhi. He says about Bharatnatyam that "I loved the fact that here was a dance to be performed bare feet. The rhythmic nature of the footwork and the stylised gestures added to the allure I felt for the dance."
These are the not the only two. There are numerous foreigners who are so smitten by the gracious Indian classical dancing that they have devoted their lives to master the art.
Collena Shakti is orginally from California. She is trained in Odissi dance form and also the sapera dance - folk dance in Rajasthan. She has founded Shakti School of Dance and adopted the lifestyle of an Indian woman. She adorned the cover page of an Indian Embassy's publication in Arabic. The cover story in the magazine says,“Art knows no boundaries. These foreign dancers are no longer just curious spectators, but they have mastered the art to such precision, that their perfect body movement, finesse and facial expressions have left the audience spellbound.”
"Indian classical dance gives you that sense of ultimate reality through which one is able to create a sacred space on stage." Says another foreigner Odissi dancer Sharon Lowen. She was born and brought up in Detroit, USA. She has performed at concerts throughout India, North America, Asia, Africa, the United Kingdom and the Middle East.
Devayani is a French dancer and guess what? She learnt Bharatnatyam in France itself. Incredible, isn't it? "When Indians see foreigners performing Indian classical arts, their pride in their own culture is doubly reinforced." She says.
Helena Magisson too learnt Bharata Natyam in France itself
There are so many of them, who are more Indian than we think. The above list is only illustrative and not exhaustive. Foreigners are interested not only in Indian dance, but in Indian music, Indian movies, Indian food, yoga and Indian languages too. I have utmost respect for all these great souls who are Indians at heart, no matter in which part of the globe they stay. Not only are they learning all that is Indian, they are leaving no stone unturned, to spread all the Indianness that they have learnt. Watch this video and you will agree.
Being Indian is after all not just a geographical identity, but a cultural identity. It is a moment of great pride that India and Indianess is being celebrated all over the world.