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Kali Chandrasegaram

How has dance helped you during the pandemic?

How has dance helped you during the pandemic?

This question caught me off guard and I froze!

The reason is that in my mind the expected answer would be ‘dance was the reason that kept me going’. In fact I have never felt and don’t really feel that way about dance during this pandemic. 

My relationship with dance has been a love-hate relationship through my entire life. I was brought up by parents who constantly nagged at me to get a ‘proper’ job from a very young age, from when I started showing interest in dance, until now. Yes, my mum, the only one alive out of the two, still keeps – well, now asking me, not nagging any more – (well, I am almost fifty), the same question: why don’t you get a regular job? I am a freelance performance artist by the way; and it took me almost forty years to realise that she, and my father as well when he was alive, are not wrong. I say ‘they are’ because I still hear my father’s voice… constantly. 

The struggle as a freelance dancer living thousands of miles away from his biological family is not easy and can get a bit much. I never could run to them quickly for help so what do I do? I learnt to survive and find alternatives. 
As a freelance dancer, I have learnt to survive on basics – no luxuries for us, darling! I have lived on sardines and in freezing cold rooms during winters and it only made me resilient… but do I still need this struggle when I am hitting my fifties?

Through the twenty-three years of being a professional dancer and choreographer, schizophrenia played its game. The duality, the dichotomy of my feelings towards dance was sometimes unbearable and the lockdown totally put it to test. My body protested and refused to move. My mind was constantly nagging at me to get a ‘proper’ job. The plus side is that as there was no physical dance work during the pandemic I managed by gathering all my previous recorded dance performances and being creative with it to create videos; and it paid, and it was absolutely fine, until I was given a commission to film myself dancing… buggered! Yes I have put on a huge amount of weight during the lockdown. And you may ask why? Well, I used to travel a huge amount and meet many different people with my work and I absolutely loved it, especially working closely with other dancers and artists and lovely people. But during the lockdown I got stripped of this only luxury I had in my life, the luxurious intense working environment with people. So, of course I was depressed and with depression I put on weight!

My point is that it is not dance that keeps me going, it is my dance mums, my dance sisters and brothers, who are my dance family and who have been a constant support in my twenty-three years as a professional dancer and choreographer that keep me going. I wouldn’t have survived this long as an artist if it hadn’t been for these beautiful beings. 

So how has dance helped me through the pandemic? The credit goes to my dance family, and you know who you are and I thank you all with all my heart for keeping me alive. The social distancing is not allowing us to meet up and it’s killing me but you have not stopped showering your love and I am eternally grateful and yes, I will endure the struggles for my love of dance and the love you give me because of dance!