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Dancing in the clouds

Jyotsnaa Manivasakam is proof that a young woman can reach for the skies

08 Sep 2020 / 10:07 H.

WHEN she was three years old, Jyotsnaa Manivasakam was introduced to Indian classical dance, also known as Bharata Natyam, by her aunt Shanti Murugiah, a dance teacher.

At age nine, she was encouraged by her aunt to study at Datuk Ramli Ibrahim’s Sutra Dance Theatre, as her aunt had learned another Indian classical dance form – Odissi – there.

Two years later, Jyotsnaa resumed her training in Bharata Natyam at Sutra.

Now at age 24, Jyotsnaa – who has a degree in Health and Applied Science –still dances regularly, and even gives dance lessons.

However, at one point she was forced to take a hiatus from dance after an accident in which she broke her arm.

It was during that time that she realised that her real passion was to become a pilot, and with blessings from her mother, she is now aiming for the skies.

Unfortunately, before she could attend the pilot training academy in New Zealand, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and overseas travel was stopped.

She is currently studying the theory part of her pilot training online, and when she can travel again, she will be there doing the necessary to get her pilot’s license.

At present she is working towards getting her PPL (Private Pilot Licence), and later her CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence).

Jyotsnaa says that she cannot let go of either piloting or dance, as they are “two sides of a coin” for her. “Losing one will be like losing a part of myself,” said the confident, self-assured lass.

What was it like practising dance during the MCO?

“It was tough, but at the same time I was thankful I could keep myself occupied with that. I actually took the time to relax and focus on my studies.

“Previously we were preparing for a performance that was supposed to take place at the end of March. We were practising on a daily basis.

“So when the MCO happened, I took two to three weeks to relax and focus on my studies.”

Now that people can study and do just about anything online, do you see classical dance being taught online as well?

“I heard that some yoga classes (which is like dance in a way) are being taught online. It can be done, but the disadvantage is that you will miss the essence that you get from a one-on-one lesson or standing there in class in person.

“You can only do so much online. It is more complicated than that.

“Your steps, your expressions, your movements, whether your fingers are straight if your hands are straight ... that cannot be communicated online.”

Was being a pilot something you always wanted to do?

“Kind of. When I was young, I was very scared and nervous about flying. I used to watch a lot of shows like Air Crash Investigation.

“But from the very first time I flew, I loved it. So it stemmed from there.”

What did you learn from dance that you could bring to studying piloting?

“Discipline. I have learned so much and groomed myself. Several things that dance requires is discipline, time-management skills and the ability to interact with others (dance partners, people in the audience) on stage and off stage – basically, how you carry yourself.”

What else do you like doing?

“I like trying out new things. I am always up for adventure. I used to be a state-level bowler when I was in primary school. I was also a choral speaker, both in primary and secondary school.

“During that time I used to travel extensively both locally and internationally with Sutra. I love hiking, cliff diving and drift carting. I would also like to try bungee jumping and sky diving.

“When I can, I donate and I help out as much as I can at the local Animal Shelter because I am a huge animal lover.

“That is how I got my dog. He was just roaming outside my house, and I took him in.”

$!Jyotsnaa strikes a pose. – Courtesy of Vanizha Vasanthanathan
Jyotsnaa strikes a pose. – Courtesy of Vanizha Vasanthanathan

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