The Bharatnatyam dancer

  • 2001-03-15
  • Devyani Banerjee
TALLINN - For 34-year-old Pille Roosi, "Art is universal in its significance. It cannot be confined within the geographical boundaries of a country."

An Estonian, Roosi has mastered Bharatnatyam, a particular form of classical dance from India. She was drawn to Indian dance during her teenage years, when she watched with avid interest the Indian films that made regular appearances in the cinemas in those days.

"I would watch a film many times just to see the dancing, and later tried to imitate it in front of the mirror," she said.

It was in 1984 that friends told her that a woman by the name of Irina Jankevich had just opened a school called Amrita, to teach Indian dance in Tallinn.

"It was a dream come true for me," said Roosi. "I joined the dance school in the fall of 1984 and began to learn Bharatnatyam under Jankevich's tutelage," she said.

Jankevich left Tallinn in 1987 and gave the mantle of Amrita to Roosi, who had become the most dedicated student of the group.

"The responsibility was definitely an honor, but I soon realized that it wasn't easy. I myself wanted to learn more so that I could teach my disciples better," she explained.

"Those were the closed days of the Soviet era, so I could not invite teachers from abroad. So I decided to sharpen my own skills more."

Roosi learned through contacts that Bharatnatyam was being taught in Moscow and Leningrad. She went to these places to learn more about this unique art form.

The Festival of India in the U.S.S.R. in 1987-88 gave her another fine opportunity to see more. She remembers, "After Estonia's independence, I could move around more freely and interact with the great exponents of Bharatnatyam."

Roosi performed solo dances in Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, the largest concert hall in London, in 1999 to thundering applause. She has performed both solo and with a group from her dance studio all over Estonia and also in Riga.

At the moment, Roosi teaches dance both in Tallinn and Riga and conducts workshops from time to time. She is looking forward to a special concert to be held in May 2001, in the Eesti Concert Hall.

Chitra Vishveshwaran, a famous exponent of Bharatnatyam, will be coming to perform from India. For the occasion, Roosi and her group will perform a dance drama to be choreographed by Vishveshwaran with live musicians.

Roosi is also looking forward to a solo performance by her student Ulli Muurisepp on April 14, 2001, in Sakala 3. When asked about the differences between Indian and Western classical dance forms, Roosi explained, "Both are pure art, but Indian classical dance has more precision."

She continues, "Indian classical dance is based on mythology, so it is more expressive and transcendental." The name Amrita literally means nectar. "That is how I perceive Indian dance."

Roosi's future plans include going to India to learn more of the dance style, and to popularize Bharatnatyam throughout the Baltic countries. The only deterrent in her plans is a severe financial crunch. "Art is priceless, and it is such a pity if it is allowed to degenerate for lack of funds."