Chennai: A resident of Ambattur, Chennai, Poni, a transgender, has broken the chains of stereotypes through her dance and is now admired by her neighbours and community for setting an example to the next generation by becoming a professional dancer. The journey though was not all smooth as she faced ridicule from society while she worked her way up the ladder of success.
Speaking to 'News Today', Poni says, "I was very interested in dance. Bharatanatyam in particular. Madras fascinated me to take up the dance form as a profession. I joined a course in Bharatanatyam at the Government Music School in Tuticorin. It was not all a happy story. In the beginning I was rejected by my teacher. They asked me to bring my parents. After the principal intervened, they started teaching me. My journey of dance has not stopped from then on. I wanted to do more in dance. I joined a master's course in Bharatanatyam."
Poni performed her arangetram in front of a huge crowd and received big applause. She believed that things will be much brighter from that day on. So it did, as an NGO approached her to teach dance to more than 30 transgender women in Madurai.
"I was taken back at first, nervous. I thought about how they would like me. But when I visited them, all the transgenders were welcoming and happy to see me. They looked up to me. Thus began my career as a dance teacher."
Poni was not content with life in Madurai and wanted to be in a place where she could do more for society. This led her to Chennai. Along with her friend Anjali whom she met in Madurai, Tamilnadu, she rented a house in Vyasarpadi in Chennai.
"The experience of finding a house in Chennai is traumatic, people ask all kinds of questions and the rent doubles just because you are a transgender." she adds.
Poni wanted to get into the limelight, she didn't let anything deter her. "After advertising for free classes, people started coming home but would leave immediately after they look at me. My dark skin tone was another problem. I almost gave up after being continuously thrown back against the wall. That is when I met Sivakumar who runs an NGO. He gave me courage to perform at sabhas and temple," smiles Poni.
She started her classes with four children but now teaches 32 students at her Ambattur residence. After successfully starting her dance school Abhinaya Nrithyalaya, things are getting better.
Poni started getting respect from her locality after she performed at a Vinayakar Temple festival in Ambattur. "Neighbours started appreciating my dance skills and send their kids for dance classes. I take free classes. It is not about money. I want my dance to help people. They return the favour by paying my rent or presenting a gift to show their token of love."
Poni's dance performances are based on mythological stories or social issues. She has performed dances on poverty, women education, female infanticide, empowerment and more. She can be contacted at 7401099389.
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