Tanvi Mavuri played the role of Aurora in our biennial production “Sleeping Beauty” on the 14th and 15th of December, 2019. After nearly 10 months of preparations, and just 2 weeks before the performance, Tanvi fell sick with dengue and was admitted to the hospital. Here is the experience of this 15-year-old as she battles her way through numerous challenges to finally perform her first lead role on stage.
Interview by Miss Sushmitha Margad
For how long have you been learning ballet?
I have been learning ballet for the past 12 years. I started with Vaganova ballet when I was 3 and continued it for 9 years in South Korea. Then I did RAD in New Zealand for a year and a half, and now ISTD since 2018 at The Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet, Bangalore.
Have you played any lead roles before being chosen to play Aurora in Sleeping Beauty?
I haven’t had the chance to play any main role before this, as I was too young in Korea. But I performed at many Grand Prixs and have had other character roles in Don Quixote and Nutcracker. Playing the role of Aurora was the first time I ever had a lead role.
How did you feel when Miss Yana first suggested the role to you?
The first time I heard that I would play the role of Aurora, I was so thrilled and excited that I remember my heart skipping a beat. I just couldn’t stop smiling for the entire day.
What were the challenges in preparing for this role?
Aurora is a very unique character – she portrays so many emotions, from being a happy-go girl to a very composed and elegant spirit. It was difficult to try and incorporate so many feelings and emotions at once because it takes experience in real-life to be able to portray those minute and specific feelings. At first, when Aurora pricks her finger, it was really challenging for me to express pain and agony. Eventually, having had dengue played a huge role in this part of the scene, as I was able to draw on my experience with the illness to portray the correct emotions, feelings and body language.
Were you always excited to come to practice? What was your favourite part of the preparations?
When Yana called me for practices at the studio, I was more than willing to be there. Every time I danced, I knew I was trying to improve or polish another step. I remember being at the studio practising every single choreography that was given to me, going home feeling relieved and satisfied that I had a productive class. My favourite part of the preparations was practising the Pas de deux with Peter. As we got closer to the show, I remember being so confident that I would get everything right on stage because I was so well prepared to perform.
How did you realize you had dengue?
I was at school in music class when I started to feel very unwell. I asked if I could go to the nurse’s office and one of my closest friends dropped me there. I remember the cold feeling that went down my spine when he and I were walking to the office. It was a kind of fever that I had never experienced. Sudden shivers. Nauseousness. After school, I returned back home and at this time, I was at my worst. I threw up all over in the bathroom. When my mom checked on me I was completely blue. Everything was muffled around me and I was rushed to the hospital immediately. It was late at night by this time and I remember the flashing white lights of the ER before my eyes. I was put on the hospital bed and they took a sample of my blood and put me on IV. Two hours later, my dad walked in and said “Guess what Tiya? You have dengue!”. My heart just dropped to the floor thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do the show.
What were your immediate feelings and thoughts when you found out about the diagnosis?
As I was lying in the ER, the first thought that came to mind was “Oh, god, my friends, family, and everyone’s gonna hate me”. I was so worried about how I was going to tell everyone that I had dengue, keeping in mind that the show was just 2 weeks away! I didn’t want to let my teachers down; they had put so much effort into the show.
How long were you completely out of action? What were you going through mentally?
I missed a whole week of rehearsal after I was diagnosed as I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was very concerned about how I would even get through the dance routines when I got back because there were times during this phase that I wouldn’t even be able to walk. My body wouldn’t support me at all. Every bone in my body hurt. This struck me down, and I was very upset over the whole situation to the point that I just didn’t want to interact with anyone. I felt like I wouldn’t get any better and my whole world had shattered around me.
Who were your pillars of support during this time?
Firstly my parents, who took such great care of me during the time I was bedridden. Although I hated the medicine, the liquids, and the food that they pushed down my throat, I am thankful to them for helping me recover so I could achieve my goal.
My ballet family supported me through the journey, giving me hope that I could pull off the role of Aurora! My friends sent loving messages to me every day and had endless video calls making sure I was always awake and distracted. Miss Yana dedicated so much of her time towards me getting better fast, such as taking extra ballet classes for me to help regain my strength. She even suggested exercises and diets to get me stronger quicker and asked me mainly to focus on my muscles. I remember her late-night calls to check if I was doing fine. She endured the pressure of the show and encouraged me to get stronger. She had enough confidence that I would return and be strong enough to dance. I also want to add a huge shoutout to Miss Elina and Miss Sushmitha for all the delicious jars of quick bites for energy, and for taking care of me during the classes we had together.
Did you receive any support from anyone in our student-parent community?
My ballet mates Sabitha, Naina, and Ryka would call me very often to keep me cheerful during these depressing days. There was also a huge amount of support from Dr.Onkita, Ryka’s mother who would check on me every single day.
What was most challenging once you got back?
The first few days when I was practising with Miss Yana, Miss Elina, and Miss Sushmitha, my muscles were very stiff. The most draining experience I had while practising was attempting my second variation. This required a lot of muscle endurance and strength from me, which I had lost and had to regain. When I practised the Pas de deux with Peter, I remember being very sensitive as every little touch would sting and hurt me. I was very happy that Peter handled me with so much care and caution, knowing my situation.
Did you have any doubts and how did you cope with them?
My goal was very clear and I knew that I was shouldering a huge responsibility. I had to deliver it for myself and everyone who had put their trust in me. After the first week, when my platelets started to stabilize, I knew there was no stopping me and I would give it my best.
How prepared did you feel on the day before the show?
I remember being so nervous on the day before. My body was weak and I wanted to do everything I could to give the best performance. I had so many fears just flashing through my mind. “What if I fall? What if I pass out? What if…?”. Still, I knew that I was prepared because a lot of effort and time had gone into practising the choreographies over a whole year. By the end of the day, I was ready to take on the role of Aurora.
How was the first day of the show for you?
During the first show, I was still pretty weak but I knew that I was prepared. Compared to the second day, the first day felt hectic, because there were so many preparations that had to be made, and the whole stage needed to be set up. During the first show, I was able to cope with stress and nervousness. It was a little difficult to deal with the pain and aches in my muscles. During the show, there were little ups and downs as I was still getting used to the floor of the stage. After the first show, I felt relieved for the fact that I was able to dance on stage for two hours, but at the same time, I was reflecting on what I could do better the next day.
How was the second day of the show for you? Take us through your experience as the show progressed? How did you feel after the second day of the show as you took the curtain call?
Out of the two shows that I performed, the day of the final show was the most vivid and stuck out the most to me. I woke up the morning of the final show and told my mom that I wanted to reach the auditorium by 12 p.m. I rushed onto the stage in my warm-up gear, with my phone and headphones and I spent 30 minutes quickly marking through the choreography and walking around the stage visualizing everything. I remembered all the corrections from the performance the previous day and I made sure that I would get it right.
As I started getting dressed I could feel the blood gushing through my veins. I was so nervous. After I finished getting ready for the show, my mother came into the dressing room and told me that my friends and family were sitting outside. I remember being so frantic that night. My heart was thumping, my legs were shaking and my hands were twitching. I. Just. Wanted. This. To. Go. Right.
Finally, the show began. The music had started and I was waiting behind the curtains for my turn. I remember applying so much rosin onto my shoes, they became white! I just wanted everything to be perfect. NYB finished their Garland Waltz, and I heard my music play. I took a deep breath and confidently walked out into a pool of flashing and bright lights. There was no stopping me. Before I knew it, I was dancing. I always get so emotional when I discuss this. For the first time in 2 weeks, I felt completely like myself again and I was soaring on cloud nine.
It was finally time for my grandest performance. The Pas de deux. The instruments started playing in harmony and Peter and I ran out onto the stage. I remember how we were whispering to each other throughout the whole performance behind the screen, about the funniest things! During our final pose, we both felt so accomplished because I remember us nailing a triple pirouette during the routine. It felt so good! While I was taking the final bow, I took a sigh of satisfaction.
I was so happy that night. I loved every single second of the show. It was as if I was transported into a fairytale for two hours. Even today, it’s funny how I still daydream of all of us dancing on that ginormous stage together, smiling. It’s a precious memory that I will cherish forever.
Did this whole experience change your dancing in any way?
This experience didn’t change the physical aspect of my dancing but it did mentally, making me stronger, knowing that no matter what challenges I would come across, I would always be able to overcome them with dedication and perseverance.
Did this experience change you as a person?
The experience of falling sick with dengue has definitely changed me as a person. It helped me build more courage and trust in myself.
With the current lockdown situation, motivation to keep everyone going has become one of the biggest challenges. How are you coping with that?
As of now, I am attending online ballet classes and making sure I adhere to a regular dance routine at home, practising floor and centre exercises every day so that I don’t lose my strength. I keep myself motivated to do my best by setting a goal for myself to achieve every class. This helps me better my technique in every ballet class hence making it productive.
Has your experience with dengue influenced your attitude towards the current lockdown situation?
My experience with dengue was more or less like a lockdown, where I had to stay at home all day. It is a little difficult just staying within your four walls, but at the end of the day, your safety is most important. The experience of dengue has influenced the way I perceive this pandemic because of the confidence that I have built. I trust that we shall overcome this too.
Any message you would like to give others who are facing or might face a similar challenge as you did with dengue?
For anyone out there who is suffering as I did, please have courage! Giving up might seem like the easiest thing to do in times of despair, but we always have to remember the amount of effort and time we and our mentors have put into that specific goal. Always trust that you as an individual can achieve wonders, even if it’s reaching for the stars.