Malini Srinivasan | Indian Bharatanatyam Dance
When I was little, I knew that I wanted to build something. I did not know what to build, and I did not know what materials to use. But I was sure I wanted to create something.
I learned to dance Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) when I was very young and growing up in Maryland, outside of Washington D.C. My parents are from India, and my mother, who was a dance teacher, would teach us dance at home, in the basement. Sometimes we went to India, where my grandmother also taught dance. Everyone in my family–my cousins, my sister, all the boys and girls, whether they grew up in America or in India–learned dance. Dance was always something that brought us all together.
I enjoyed dancing, I loved performing on stage and wearing beautiful costumes. I felt very special when I danced, but I had many other interests too. When I went to college, I lost touch with dance. I did not know that one day, what I learned from my mother and grandmother would end up being so useful.
When I was older, my mother died suddenly of cancer, and after this happened I was filled with a terrible sadness; I felt empty and heavy at the same time and I did not know how to get rid of these feelings. It was at this point that I started dancing again. Dance gave me discipline; I learned how to pick myself up even when I felt low. Dance gave me focus; I focused on steps, rhythms, stories and melodies instead of sadness. More than anything, dance gave and still gives me happiness and energy. After just 10 minutes of dancing my spirit feels lighter.
Now, when I feel like creating something, I dance. When I perform I use my dance steps, hand gestures, and facial expressions to convey emotions and communicate different characters to the audience. Dancing on my own and teaching bharatanatyam to others makes me feel like I am keeping the spirits of my mother and grandmother alive.
What students and teachers say about Malini:
“Today we prayed to Mother Earth, then we started our rehearsal… whenever I go to the stage I feel really good because when I was small I loved to dance and sing. Now, I am dancing and will soon be singing. Our teacher, Ms.Malini, never yells and has peace in her heart… isn’t that amazing? We are so lucky to have this Indian dance class with Ms. Malini because Ms. Malini is so decent. I wish to always keep Indian dance in my heart.”
– Monika at P.S. 69Q
“Dear Ms.Malini, We are all excited that we had the opportunity to learn from you. We really appreciated what you taught us about Indian dancing. We all hope for another opportunity like the one you gave us, to learn more about Indian dance and cultures. Thank you for all your hard work and efforts. Thank you again, Ms.Malini!”
-Students at P.S. 69Q
Malini speaks of her connection to her practice, Bharatanatyam dance, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in September, 2017 as a part of City Lore’s “What We Bring” exhibit
An evening of dance with Malini Srinivasan