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When Sandhya Suresh was four, her parents enrolled her in ballet lessons. A year later, she started Indian classical dance training at the Temple of Fine Arts International. She continued to dance, completing her degree in LASALLE College of the Arts, where she attained a BA(Hons) in Dance from Goldsmiths, University of London.
She performed on stages all around the world, from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to local festivals like Kalaa Utsavam. But when she turned 21, her smooth-sailing dance career took a turn. She fell critically ill and was told that she might never be able to dance again. “It was then that I decided that if I got out alive, dance was what I wanted to do,” she shares.
Eight years after the scare, Sandhya is not just a dancer. She’s also a teacher and company manager at CHOWK, an established dance company founded in 2007 by Raka Maitra, a fellow Odissi performer. The centre offers classes and produces contemporary and classical dance works that have been commissioned by theatres and festivals in Singapore.
But don’t pigeonhole her as just an Indian dancer. “I am Indian; and I am a dancer-choreographer. They are two separate things. I guess people feel the need to define you, put you somewhere. Although I train in Odissi regularly, I feel like it doesn’t eliminate the dance education I’ve gone through for over 20 years of my life. I also teach basic western contemporary techniques and do projects as an independent dance artist.”
Ahead of Sandhya’s performance, In Your Shadow, at the Esplanade on August 30 and 31, she sheds some light on the classical Indian dance scene in Singapore and why it matters.