DANCER, choreographer and actress Aarti Narotam is showing the performing arts community in Port Elizabeth her versatility, with her latest production Umjuxuzo Alive heading for the National Arts Festival next weekend.
Choreographed and directed by NMMU’s arts and culture manager Nicki-Anne Rayepen and written by Narotam, the production explores some of the challenges students encounter while journeying towards their inner truth.
“Nicki had this idea of doing a dance production together and afterwards I wrote Umjuxuzo and we approached Michael Barry who is a senior lecturer, and he thought it was a brilliant idea,” said Narotam.
“While playing with stereotypes, this work delves into how fears overcome us and at those times, dance as a medium provides the exact outlet we need.”
Umjuxuzo Alive, a production of NMMU’s arts and culture department supported by the PE Opera House, will feature eight students from various departments within the university and the dance styles include contemporary, African dance and hip-hop among other disciplines.
Narotam is certainly no stranger to performing in front of crowds, having performed at the National Arts Festival multiple times with her one woman dance production, Devadasi.
“I studied dance in India for three months learning a new technique and coming back to PE, I knew dance was what I wanted to do.
“After watching a programme on TV about prostitution, the idea of Devadasi was born. Devadasi brings to light the story of a girl married off to a temple by a family who could no longer afford to look after her.
“These girls would maintain and clean the temples and in their spare time do devotional dances in praise of various dieties,” Narotam said.
The 30-year-old who, among other things, works as a research and development officer at the university, started working there last year after the “institution grew a keen interest in traditional Indian style of dancing”.
“NMMU is looking at incorporating dance as an academic subject with Indian dance incorporated into the course,” she said. Apart from working at the university Narotam also lectures at Stageworld Theatre School. She said this will be the first production the university will be taking to the NAF.
“The production is very strategic because we want to get the acting vice-chancello Dr Sibongile Muthwa behind us and to let everyone know what the institution is trying to do with the performing arts through NAF which may aid our efforts into getting the course up and running.”
Narotam, who is a Miss PE first princess and holds a BCom Law degree from NMMU, was encouraged by her parents to have a back-up plan in case dance did not work out.
“I wouldn’t say I was pressured but my dad, even though he’s a musician, encouraged me to do something other than dance to fall back on. After graduating I worked as an adviser but realised dance was my passion and where my heart lay,” Narotam said.
Narotam, the daughter of South African Traditional Music Award nominee Mahesh Narotam, said performing had always been in her family with her father playing the traditional Indian flute, brother Chetan playing drums and her younger sister, Brita, also a dancer.