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Devoted to dance
March 04, 2013 COMMENT comment
     
Devoted to dance
By Jamuna Rangachari
 
 
She calls herself a Can-Indian who tried to take the best from both Indian and Canadian cultures for 20 years. A wellknown Bharatnatyam dancer, Marie Elangovan shares her insight on rhythm, divinity, life and love. Viewing dance as a doctor of the body, mind and spirit, Marie is clear that in its pure form, dance becomes one with the dancer.
 
The aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the air in a simple home that is austere and uncluttered. The lady of the house, dressed simply with her hair demurely plaited, is in an animated discussion with her husband on a Tamil composition and the nuances of the 'bhava' (emotion) the poet sought to bring out in it. Your standard South Indian couple, maybe in Chennai or Mysore?

Well, this home is in New Delhi. And the lady brewing the coffee and talking about bhava is a white French-Canadian from Quebec called Marie Elangovan. What is the power that has made this Westerner such a docile adherent of Tamil culture? What gave her the strength to straddle the vast distance between her roots and her present life?
 
'Life indeed gives you what you desire for' seems to be the message of her story. Marie was a student of religious studies at Montreal University when she decided to come to India. As luck would have it, she was introduced to her guru KJ Govindarajan when he was on a visit to Montreal. She fell in love with the beauty and purity of Bharatnatyam and soon decided to move here.
 
"I landed in May – in the peak summer of Delhi though many people warned me against it," she says, laughing. With determination and discipline, she mastered the art in far lesser time than expected. This happened almost effortlessly. As Marie says, "I never thought of speeding up this process, but definitely wished to please my guru with dedicated practice."
 
This was also the period when she fell in love with Elangovan, Shri Govindarajan's son, who had played quite an active role in her life as an interpreter. They married with the blessings of both sets of parents and are now the proud parents of 16-year-old Govindan.
 
The different cultures were never an issue for them. "I was totally at peace when I saw a photograph of Jesus in the family pooja room, a present that one of the students had given my father-in-law," says Marie. Before her arangetram (debut on-stage perfromance), her father-in-law suggested she should change her name to Shanti, but her mother-in-law spoke vehemently against it, saying Marie was a beautiful name and she should not alter it. For both of them the satisfaction was, and still is, the process of mastering the art. To do justice to the compositions in Bharatanatyam, it is important to understand the lyrics and she manages to do that with the help of her husband Elangovan. Before they start working on a piece, they discuss, interpret and then she practises accordingly.
 
Viewing dance as a doctor of the body, mind and spirit, Marie is clear that in its pure form, dance becomes one with the dancer. The bottom-line is that she wants to be happy and enjoy dancing.
 
Having been in India for quite a while, she feels both countries could learn from each other. "Indians could learn from Canadians to treat each other like equals no matter what the socio-economic background is. Canadians in turn could learn to be more tolerant towards each other and less self-centered. They should learn the value of education from Indians and school students should be more respectful towards their teachers," she says.
 
Artistic integrity is an ideal she practices assiduously. "It is extremely important for an artiste to have inner peace. And if I were to get recognition using dubious means, that peace would be destroyed," she says and adds that commercial success has never been her main goal but she only wishes to continue practising Bharatnatyam in its purest sense.
 
According to her, dance has honed and shaped her into a splendid human being with a rich contribution to make to human society. There can be no greater fulfilment.

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