David Cameron’s flippant rant against Indian dancing has expectedly created a furore. The British Prime Minister, campaigning to scrap the compulsory two hours a week of sports in state schools, told a TV channel rather insensitively that a lot of schools were meeting that target “by doing things like Indian dancing or whatever that you and I probably wouldn’t think of sport.”
One does not know why exactly the Premier had to pick on Indian dancing but perhaps his comment was intended as a symbolic response to the burgeoning popularity of Bollywood dancing in the British isles.
But surely, dancing is a form of exercise as well as a performing art and was Cameron better informed, he would have known about the linkages between Indian dancing and excellence in sport from the proceedings of the London Olympics going on in his own backyard.
And there is no better recent example of this connection between Indian dancing and sport than Siona Fernandes, who represented New Zealand in boxing in the flyweight class at the Olympics, the same division in which our own Magnificent Mary Kom fought and won a bronze. That the 29-year-old Kiwi pugilist lost to Bulgaria’s Stoyka Petrova 23-11 in the first round is another matter, probably due to her relative inexperience considering that she took up the sport just two plus years ago.
The Goa-born Siona, who migrated to New Zealand five years ago, is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer who learnt the discipline at Kalakshithi in Bangalore for over half a decade, according to M R Krishnamurthy, head of Kalakshithi. She has even represented Goa and Karnataka in basketball at the junior level.
Siona had moved to Auckland when her father, Dr John Fernandes, Director of Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour in Goa, got a job with the District Health Board in New Zealand. Since there were no facilities to pursue her dancing in the land of a few million sheep, she joined a gymnasium and took up boxing for fitness. The rest is history. Siona and Alexis Pritchard (lightweight), who lost in the second round, were New Zealand’s two female boxing representatives at the Olympics.
Obviously, Siona believes that her dancing training has helped her move like a butterfly in the boxing ring: “Because boxing is very similar to dancing, it’s all about footwork, it’s about balance, coordination, focus – dancing is a lot of focus, you’ve got to remember your moves, rhythm,” she has said.
So if Cameron realty wants to encourage British kids to excel in sport he should perhaps be encouraging Indian dancing in state schools rather than trying to target it!