It is not often you witness a legend dance on stage and furthermore, all the more difficult to perform and share stage with a legend. I have been teaching dance in India for almost 15 years now and it was always my dream to be on the same stage with this ‘legend’. It was a dream come true for my team members and me when Sneha Charity, an NGO that looks after education of people living in slums, approached us to dance for their fund-raising event. This was the opportunity that none of us wanted to miss because we were getting a chance to share stage with legendary Padma Bhushan Dr Mallika Sarabhai.
I first met Dr Sarabhai many years back in a social event and I was awestruck with her persona, grace and beauty. She is a true woman of substance. A dancer par excellence, a theatre artist, an entrepreneur, a mother, a film actress… you name it and its on her profile. Even after having so many feathers in her cap, she is extremely down-to-earth and generous. I know many people have done articles on her as a dancer and a traditionally rich human being. But my story is about feeling the high of sharing stage with a marvel like her.
Our show for Sneha Charity was decided for a particular date but due to few unforeseen circumstances, the dates kept changing. We were all sad that our opportunity of a lifetime to dance with Dr Sarabhai was lost. But god was on our side and a new date was finalised. It was as if sunshine got back to our lives.
On the day of the show, I was trembling. Honestly, I was very nervous as Dr Mallika Sarabhai was going to open the show with her classical piece and I was asked to close the same show. I was to meet her before the event started and my anxiety was almost killing me. When I came face-to-face with her, I froze. She, I guessed understood my state and she welcomed my partner, Jesse Randhawa, and me with a warm hug and a big smile and said, “I am proud of your work and am very happy that finally I get to share the stage with you.”
Her grace and ageless beauty was more than that of a Bollywood or a Hollywood star. It was me who should have said words like “Ma’am, I am honoured to be sharing the stage with you” but my nervousness was like a child entering a new school. Her comforting voice made me feel relaxed and she soon introduced me to her son and daughter who also happen to be very talented dancers themselves. She was so kind and encouraging with her words towards my kind of international dance forms that sometimes I wonder why is it that people feel there is always a cold war or so call undercurrents between Indian classical dancers and Western dancers. Her words still ring in my mind, “Oh! how I wish I could learn the tango from you, Sandip.”
For me, these appreciation words coming from a legend are more than innumerable awards. And honestly, I feel in my heart, “How I wish I was even one per cent as accomplished dancer as Dr Mallika Sarabhai.” She indeed is a true woman of substance.
Soon show began and I stopped my makeup to watch her dance. Every eye in the audience was glued to the stage when she moved, twirled and narrated stories after stories in her ever so dynamic and graceful self. Then was my chance to close the show and when Jesse and me stepped onstage, I saw her giving me a thumbs up for her support. A standing ovation is what we got and if it was not for that thumbs up I wonder where my nervousness would have taken the show.
Dr Sarabhai is a dancer every choreographer and a dancer looks up to and I am no exception. Today, she might find my working with international artistes a proud thing but for me sharing the stage with her is more of a memory than even choreographing for Britney Spears video or teaching dance to the Queen of Pop, Madonna. I am glad that I could be on the same platform as hers and I pray to God that soon we must dance the tango together too. Amen!!!