Youth Spotlight- Manik Kuchroo (with video)

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Manik Kuchroo

The New England community was recently witness to a special event, an Arangetram with featured musicians and dance gurus and an appreciative audience of more than 350. The organization of the event was commendable, with the auditorium and music arrangements being of the highest order. The after Arangetram dinner event was specially coordinated with personal attention showered on individual guests.

The most exceptional part of this Arangetram event was what was central to it; The brother and sister team of Juhi and Manik Kuchroo performing the Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi forms of dance, doing justice to their years of learning and to their gurus and parents. Both Juhi and Manik were deserving of all the applause and Juhi turned in an as-always and as-expected brilliant performance. What the audience could not stop admiring however was how much focus, persistence, maturity and leadership ability Manik must have summoned to reach such levels of proficiency as to dance alongside a strong performer like Juhi. That too, in the absence of any role models from among his peers!

Is there a positive example here for our growing kids and young adults? We believe so but you tell us. We are pleased to shine the Youth Spotlight on Manik Kuchroo in this issue of 'Shehjar'.

Brother and sister team of Juhi and Manik Kuchroo performing
the Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi forms of dance

1.Hello Manik, please tell us about yourself.

Manik: I am 14 years old and am a 9th grader / freshman at Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, MA. I was born and raised in Boston. I have a sister, Juhi, who is 17 years old and a senior in school. My dad's name is Vijay Kuchroo and my mom is Kiran Kuchroo.

I love to play cricket and table tennis. I enjoy music and dance. I learn Western and Hindustani classical music and am a member (singer) of the New England Conservatory Youth Chorale group.

My sister has the greatest influence on me. She is my role model because I feel as if she is perfect in whatever she does, whether it is in her studies or dance or music etc. She is a very loving sister and a very compassionate person. My dad has influenced me a lot in my love for cricket. My mom is a great influence on me because she works very hard and teaches my sister and I to do the same.

2. Congratulations on your Arangetram Performance. Both You and Juhi were excellent. What is your feeling after such an achievement?

Manik: I feel proud of myself but I also feel relief. Juhi and I had to practice dance for over 2 hours every day to prepare for our Arangetram and it would have been very difficult to dance so much with my school work. I am technically a professional dancer and I look forward to learning and performing much more in the future.

3.The audience was thoroughly impressed and the people I spoke with after you and Juhi danced termed the entire performance as a standout. What they most appreciated was that you were able to match Juhi’s performance and have excelled in a dance form where you may not have found too many role models from amongst boys. What gave you the courage and conviction to forge your own path?

Manik: My mom has taught me that I can do anything that I want, but I must do it well and give my 100%. She has also taught me not to be afraid of anybody or any situation if I think what I am doing is right. From her I have also learnt to always do something constructive. Dance is something positive or constructive and that conviction has been enough for me to continue with my dance training.

I have seen Guru Raja Reddy perform Kuchipudi dances in India and he has greatly influenced me, but my biggest role model has been my sister, who is one of the best dancers I have seen. I am very fortunate that I was able to perform Arangetram along with my sister. I am thankful to her for letting me dance along with her. I have a lot to learn from her.

4. Share some of your early dance learning experiences with us. What were the difficulties that you faced and how did you overcome those?
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Manik: I was always fascinated by Lord Krishna and wanted to be Krishna. When my sister attended her dance classes, I used to stand in a Krishna pose (pose with flute) behind her and her classmates. I asked my mom to send me to a school where I would become Lord Krishna. She suggested learning Bharatnatyam and I readily agreed. I was so happy to dance as Krishna in one of the dances at my Arangetram; my dream had come true even if it was on stage.

When I started learning dance, there was another boy in my class and I remember doing sword fighting with him whenever I got a chance. That was fun, but he left and my only male companion was gone. My Guru Neena aunty has been very patient with me because I like to be funny in the class and I also like to tease my sister (pulling her hair etc.) in the middle of the class.

Except for one or two people who thought dancing was for girls, I really did not face any difficulty. My mom has taught me not to get bothered by what others say if I am on the right path. Although, initially it was hard being the only boy, I persisted and continued with my dance training. The most difficulty I felt was when sometimes I did not want to practice, but my mom made me repeat every step again and again until I perfected it.

5. Tell us more about the dance form that you are so good at.

Manik: I have received training in Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi styles of dances.

Bharatnatyam from Tamilnadu, the oldest style of Indian dance, was first performed in Hindu temples of South India. It is based on the ancient Sanskrit text known as the Natya Shastra written by Sage Bharatha around 200 B.C. It emphasizes strong foot work coupled with the three essential elements of dance, namely Bhava (emotion), Tala (rhythm) and Raga (melody).

Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh has a folk flavor characterized by graceful movements and vibrant music. The dances are based on songs primarily written in Telugu. The dance derives its name from the village Kuchelapuram, located in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Lakshminarayan and many others were responsible for moving it from the villages to the performance stage.

6. Well, we have also seen you doing Bollywood Dances exceptionally well. How does your classical dance training help you when you dance other forms?

Manik: : I used to freeze whenever I was asked to dance before I received training in classical dances. Dance training has helped me develop body coordination and movement with rhythm. It has allowed me to grasp steps and music quickly. I also feel that I am not shy to perform anymore. I am neither scared nor self conscious.

7. Manik, you are quite young and may not be used to giving out advice. However, other kids and adults would do well to learn how standing firm on a positive chosen path, whatever the difficulties, Diino 2 GB freeeventually leads to success and achievement. So let it out and give out a shout.

Manik: I must say that I still have a lot to learn but I would like to tell younger children to be proud of what they do, even if it may seem unusual and they should listen to their parents. Parents have so much experience and they want the best for us. If others make fun of what you do, show them that you don’t care. Eventually, the jokes will go away and everyone will accept you for who you are. You have to be proud of yourself and your culture, only then will others respect you. If you experience any difficulty, talk to your parents and siblings. That way you will never feel that you are alone, and all the difficulties will vanish.

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Well done both Juhi and Manik. I can only imagine what a challenge it would have been for Manik to pursue his passion for dance. This however should not take away any credit from Juhi. Her movements are so graceful and she is a delight to watch. I only saw the video of both - this definitely is an inspiration to today's children - kashmiri or otherwise. Keep it up.
Added By Geetanjali Dhar