(Co-written with Nabamita Mitra)
It was 2001. A schoolteacher asked the students in her class what they wanted to do after 15 years. A girl sitting in the front row raised her hand and said she wanted to be a scientist. Soon others followed her. While some said they wanted to be doctors or engineers, others had professors or architects on their lists.
But Anniesha Mawrie had other dreams. The 12-year-old girl did not know how to spell the word “choreographer” but that was what she wanted to become, she had told her teacher who was impressed by the child’s ability to dream differently.
That was when Mawrie was a student of Class VI at Loreto Convent. Now, the 27-year-old can proudly say she has achieved what she had dreamt of.
Mawrie, who did her schooling from Loreto Convent, was the only contestant from Meghalaya who participated in So You Think You Can Dance India, a national contest telecast on & channel, last year and made quite an impact on the judges as well as the audience.
However, her journey to the national platform was not easy. Mawrie remembers how after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from St Mary’s College, she had to take admission in Post Graduation at North-Eastern Hill University.
Though her heart responded to rhythms and beats, Mawrie had to steady her mind and focus on studies.
“We had internal assessments (at NEHU) every week. So I could not find time to dance. We had to read voraciously. There were novels, plays, essays and poems in our syllabus,” says Mawrie, who is also a poet.
Studies and the constant pressure to be in the academic race drifted her away from her passion. But Mawrie recalls that she was pining for pursuing her dream to become a dancer.
Mawrie would stay aloof from the rest of her group in the university and spend hours “quietly watching the rustling leaves and the rippling water of the lake on the campus”.
“The leaves danced as the gentle breeze blew. The fluidity of water brought a sense of equanimity in me. I believe nature spoke to me during those moments,” says the gifted artist who won her first dance competition in Rynjah Week when she was in nursery.
After she completed her PG in English Literature, Mawrie took up various jobs, though she disliked the monotony of a 9-to-5 work, hoping that with the money that she would save, she could move to a metro city.
At a time when Mawrie was in a dilemma about her career and life, her friends Michael Syiemiong, who is also a dancer, and Teibor Mawrie encouraged her to do what she did the best, dance. They also advised her to move out of Shillong and look for the best opportunity.
“I felt alive as I went back to practising. Michael and Teibor revived my spirit. They showed me a new path,” says Mawrie, who was trained by French choreographer CHUYEN of Dance World Academy when he visited Shillong to conduct a workshop in 2004.
Through an online audition in 2016, Anniesha got selected and was chosen for So You Think You Can Dance India where she made it to the Top 11 in “Street” genre. She was choreographed by renowned contemporary dancer Terence Lewis’s assistant.
Mawrie is also trained in salsa, cha cha cha, rumba and jazz.
“I had to really push myself physically. There were best dancers from all over India. It was a wonderful experience. We went into it with our love for dancing. We never felt like it was a competition,” she says.
She came back from Mumbai and rebuilt the studio for her dance school, Phoenix Dance World, in Rynjah, which has about 40 students. She was also part of a choreographing team for model/actress Lisa Haydon for a television series last year.
Talking about her childhood dreams, Mawrie says she always wanted to choreograph the school concert at Loreto Convent. She also dreamt of acting in and choreographing Pradip Kurbah’s music videos. In fact, she got a chance to work with Kurbah when she was in Class VIII.
Mawrie, who won the All North East Dancers Competition in 2007, taught dance in Taal Academy and Providence School in Shillong when she was still an under-graduate student at St Mary’s College. The dancer says she is grateful to Michael and Teibor to bring her back to dancing.
Early this year, Mawrie got selected for an international dance workshop in Mumbai organised by ‘To The Culture Dance Organization’. Internationally renowned hip-hop choreographer Ian Eastwood guided and mentored her as she learned dance forms such as lyrical hip-hop, liquid popping, urban jam and robotics.
“Ian is so young and innately gifted. He taught me many genres,” says the young woman sitting in her dance studio.
Mawrie’s dance school is rising in popularity. Its interiors painted in stripes of light grey and beige, has her certificates and photos in picture frames neatly hung on the walls. She counts her mother Regina Mawrie (she affectionately calls her Maa) and her uncle as the ones who supported her through the years and encouraged her to fly out of the cocoon.
“I will keep dancing till I lay my head in the soil. Dance is all I know, and that is my identity,” she smiles.
When asked what message she has for budding dancers and youngsters who aspire to get on the stage, she says, “I want them to believe in themselves. Nothing is impossible. All they have to do is persevere and never quit because life is about fighting to make your dreams come true.”
This article first appeared in the Sunday Supplement of The Shillong Times newspaper May 14th 2017