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Dance of Life

Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam exponent Ananda Shankar Jayant on how dance helped her conquer cancer

Written by Parul | Chandigarh |
June 20, 2013 10:29:35 pm

Her energy,verve and lightness of being are hard to miss,both on and off stage. Celebrated as one of India’s leading classical dancers,choreographers and dance scholars,Secunderabad-based Ananda Shankar Jayant performs Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. In the city to perform as part of the ongoing Summer Theatre Festival,Jayant,apart from her performance that bristled with life,touched many a heart with her motivational talk on how dance helped her conquer cancer.

A solo and ensemble performer,teacher,acclaimed choreographer and motivational speaker,Jayant has performed at some of India’s signature dance festivals. It was at Sahayta Cancer Kendra and an interaction organised by SPIC MACAY in the city that Jayant talked about breast cancer support.

“Dance is the core of my being,it’s my sustenance and has given me the strength to conquer cancer,” said Jayant. She started dancing when she was four,and moved to Kalakshetra when she was 11,pursuing her education privately and later clearing the UPSC examination. Through all of this,dance was a parallel career and a full-time passion,with her job as an officer with the Indian Railways never interfering with her performances. “It was a milestone to receive the Padma Shri in 2007. A year later,tests revealed that I had breast cancer. Nothing had prepared me for it,and yes,I felt fear,” she said.  

Jayant admits that her first fear was that the cancer would interfere with her future plans and her dance. She was curating a National Dance Festival in Hyderabad that year and was also performing there. “I knew I had to do it; I can’t be sad for so long. I decided to ride the cancer out. It’s only one page in the book of my life,and not the entire book. I did not ask ‘why me?’,” she added.

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What followed was a determination to look beyond cancer and towards life. A week after her surgery on July 13,2008,Jayant was back at it,finalising the details of the festival,and attending rehearsals. The festival was a huge success,though Jayant herself couldn’t perform as her arm was still not moving. “Next,I had to undergo chemotherapy,which took a toll on my body and mind. It was at this stage that my husband said something which made complete sense. He said,‘treat chemo like nectar that drives out toxins and cancer from your body,and who says nectar only has to be sweet’,” said Jayant.

So,in between chemotherapy sessions and radiations,Jayant continued her dance,even performing at the Konark Dance Festival and participating in a few international conferences.

In remission for the last five years,Jayant talks about the importance of going in for regular preventive tests and examinations and remembering that cancer is treatable. “Find a passion,nourish it and draw strength from it. For me it was dance; for you,it may be something else,” she said.

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