Dance is freedom of expression. A dancer’s eyes, their posture, costume and movement can depict what even a thousand words cannot. So when Madura Joshi, a professional Bharatnatyam Dancer couldn’t enjoy her ability to express, she knew she had to get up and face life.
A Maharashtrian brought up in Banaskantha, Gujarat, Madura did not get professional dance training till she was 21. Growing up in an agricultural landscape, dance classes were not a usual neighbourhood activity. “I used to enjoy Navratri alot and loved Garba!” says Madura.
Coming from a studious family, Madura says she got the art streak from her maternal side. The house she lived in was all about the written word and academics.
“After completing my Masters, I don’t know why, but I joined a dance school in Baroda. And that was it, I never looked back after that. My guruji was so supportive that I ended up completing my visharad” she says. A Visharad is a professional degree in Bharatnatyam for those who wish to teach.
Usually, Bharatnatyam is a dance form that requires flexibility, strength and endurance. Therefore, one can understand that training like this one should begin from a younger age. But for Madura, due to the place she lived in, this was not an option. Though this didn’t stop her from pursuing dance later in life.
“Ideally one should start learning Bharatanatyam from the age of 5. I only joined dance at the age of 20. When you go into any classical dance, you need finesse in your posture. Which normal dance routines like bollywood don’t require. So that was a big challenge for me. My guruji stuck with me and taught me so vigorously that it honed me,” she says.
After Madura got married, life was not as easy anymore. With dance practices stretching to 2-3 hours, it was a challenge to manage work, classes and a home.
However, what this art form gave her was greater than the struggles she was facing. “The ability to express myself only came through dance,” she says.
Due to this new found independence, Madura started designing recitals around her chain of thoughts. The closest to her remains the one she does for women. “If your husband is not treating you well, then I will tell you through my dance,” sighting one of many examples she has staged so far.
Another one she did was on the infamous Nirbhaya case. “We perform a semi-classical recital on issues like that. We try to collaborate dance with local languages so that people can understand the emotion.”
But life was about to change post-pregnancy. Madura’s body shape was different and so was her spirit. “You don’t like standing in front of the mirror. So I decided to do two things to motivate myself. First, I started exercising with the kids in my class. And secondly, I saw videos of my previous performances,” she says.
Watching videos of herself gave her the much needed focus because she realised she could do it all over again. Madura exercised every morning while her child was asleep and it took her 1.5 years to get back to shape.
To face postpartum depression, she reiterates the importance of patience. “After pregnancy, you face many challenges like priorities, family, kid and even go through hormonal changes. You lose body shape, flexibility and your mindset changes. But accept this phase and face the world with an aim.”
Managing work life balance is a serious issue for new mothers. To counter this, Madura took the middle path. She took her son everywhere she went. For classes, recitals, travels, and even to the kitchen!
“Whether it’s cooking or dancing, he’s a part of it. So take your kid with you wherever you go. If people say no to this, then you say no to them. If they don’t care about what you’re doing then you shouldn’t care what they’re doing as well. What I learnt was that you should say yes to your kid and everything else will sort out,” she says.
Madura constantly lays emphasis on mind set. “Physically however you look, you should be mentally strong.”
The only issue which is perhaps relevant for her is the constant replacement battle with the younger lot. “Yes talent should occupy space before age, beauty and fitness.”
Madura draws inspiration from her mother and from women around her. “ From the shoe rack to wardrobes, if anyone can maintain balance it’s the mother.”
Her story is one of resilience and patience with constant hard work to let herself be. A trait that most women today struggle with.