Down-Syndrome Affected Hema Gives Chennai a Memorable Bharatanatyam Performance

Hema’s first international debut at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore.

CHENNAI Down Syndrome affected Indian-American Hema wowed Chennai audience with her splendid Bharatanatyam performance. Her first international debut at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore had all the elements of classical dance: the poise, rhythm and the grandeur.

It took twelve years of hard work for the 23-year-old woman to achieve this finesse. She underwent two major surgeries and her family says that Hema’s involvement in dance in the last four years was rigorous.

Just last September she had her debut performance called “Arangetram” in the United States. Monday’s performance did have occasional slip-ups but her high energy and radiance overshadowed them.

Sharing her success mantra, the bubbly Hema says, “Concentrate, concentrate and concentrate. Focus, focus and focus, you can do anything. Now I want to join college at Houston where my sisters are. I want to study pediatrics.”

Born in a musical family with roots in Chennai’s Mylapore, Hema’s feat comes despite two major surgeries.

Contemporary dance actor Anita Ratnam calls this “phenomenal”.

“Hema has to become in a sense a poster girl. Classical dance demands so much from us in terms of discipline, harmony, symmetry and synergy. It’s not easy even for those with little talent”.

Watching Hema’s performance were many special children, some of them aspiring artists. One among them, Arpit, said, “I would like to dance. I want to practise now”

“Just because a child has disability, it doesn’t mean he or she has to compromise. Many times we give up. We don’t expose them to art or richer things in life,” says Dr Vasudha Prakash, Founder of V – Excel Educational Trust.

Hemalatha got a standing ovation after her hour long performance. It was an emotional moment for her parents Ram Bala Ramaswamy and Gayathrimala. Ramaswamy says “The only thing I’m hoping for is this causes a stir in the community; a lot more children get opportunity to grow”.

Rajeswari, a mother of an autistic child says Hema’s accomplishment has had a positive impact. She explains “We can start dreaming. May be one day our children can also start taking part”.