What is extraordinary is that the dancer, Milana Severskaya, is Russian, and that when she was still in her teens, she used to travel all the way from her home in St Petersburg to Moscow a few times a week just to learn Bharatanatyam.
"In those days, there were very few people who could teach Bharatanatyam in my country. We had no access to information about the art form as well," explains the twenty-six year old.
"I had to make an overnight journey to get to Moscow, and finding a place to stay after my classes was even more difficult. I couldn't afford to stay in the hotels and lodges, as they are very expensive in Russia."
She recalls how on one evening, she was left with no place to sleep."But I managed," she says with a smile. It was this determination which brought this Economics and Psychology graduate to India.
Milana's rendezvous with Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam started 12 years ago, when she was taught Bharatanatyam and Kathak by "people who really did not know anything about the dance forms".
Later, during the adventurous stint in Moscow, she heard about Dhananjayan, who was at the time taking part in the Festival of India in Russia.
Milana landed in Madras in 1995, and learnt Bharatanatyam there, till she had to return home due to "lack of money". A chance programme on Russian TV about Kalamandalam (a cultural institution in Kerala) caught her fancy and on the next trip to India, she asked Dhananjayan about Mohiniyattam.
Soon, she was learning the dance form under Shyamala Surendran at her institute 'Dharani' in Kochi.
On September 5 this year, she hadher Arangettam (debut) in Kochi.
She says that she had no difficulty in learning the nuances of an alien art form."I have a special connection with Mohiniyattam. I am in the process of selfliving and like Mohini enticing Siva, I feel that the body is trying to enchant the soul."
Forever enterprising, she is at present learning the veena, yoga, classical music and Kalari (martial art form of Kerala), besides continuing with her dance classes.
She had given a performance in Russia, whichshe says, was received with wonder, since no one in the audience had seen such an art form before.
Milana wants to stay on in Kerala, which, for her, is "really nice". With her unflinching determination, that should be no problem for this artiste.
Photos: Ramesh Champakara