Rewattie Datt-DaCosta: How dance changed her life

Rewattie Datt-DaCosta

Rewattie Datt-DaCosta has been thrilling one audience after another with dance for the past 22 years through Nrityageet and she is not done yet; in fact, she is even more enthused after her recent performance at Carifesta XIII in Barbados

“[Dance] gives me a chance to express my feelings in a way that words could not,” Rewattie said during an interview with The Scene.

This is how she feels now, but prior to 22 years ago, dance never came to mind.

According to the professional dancer, back then, she never danced or cared for it at all. That was all before she was nine years old and met Nadira Shah Berry (sister of Dr Seeta Shah Roath), one of the founding members of Nadira and Indranie Shah Dance Group better known as Nrityageet.

Nadira had visited the Cummings Lodge Primary School, where Rewattie was a pupil, with the intention of finding prospective dancers to train for an upcoming Mashramani competition. Rewattie was one of the selected few and her life changed forever.

Three weeks preceding the 1995 Mashramani competition Rewattie and the others trained three times a week for the first two weeks then every day during the last week. The school placed first in the preliminaries and finished second in the finals. A few months later, in May, Rewattie found herself in the Nrityageet Group performing for the annual commemoration of Indian Arrival at the National Cultural Centre.

It was in this dance troupe that she met the two women she came to idolize after being trained by them. Those mentors are Susan Shah (Seeta’s daughter) and Nadira. “I always admired Susan. She was somebody I saw myself being like someday. I used to mimic her,” Rewattie enthused.

With her constant training and performance Rewattie is now skilled in Indian classical (Kathak), Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Indian Folk, Modern and African dance.

Not easy

While her successes have been many, Rewattie admitted that her choice to become a dancer was not easy as her family felt that she should throw all her time into books. It was hard for them as well as Rewattie who is the youngest of four but she remained determined and persevered. The school helped as it took care of transporting the students to and from classes.

“It has helped to build my confidence. I’m more disciplined and I’ve higher self-esteem,” Rewattie said about dance adding that it has also improved her coordination skills.

Upon completing Cummings Lodge Secondary School, Rewattie took a two-year hiatus travelling and dancing at the end of which she enrolled into the University of Guyana and later graduated with an Associate Degree in Pharmacy.

Dancing has taken Rewattie on some of the most amazing adventures of her life. Over the years, she has performed in and around Guyana and beyond the shores of our country. Among her perfromances were at the Omai Gold Mines Christmas and Emancipation shows and at the centre for the disabled in Linden. Dancing also took her to New York in 2002 for the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin conference where Nrityageet performed. The following year the group was at Carifesta in Suriname; some years later, they danced for the Caribbean Association of Pharmacists.

In 2013, Rewattie moved to Region Nine with her family and she opened a pharmacy in Lethem. But even there, her love for dance blossomed and that same year she found herself with another group performing in the Pacaraima (same as Pakaraima) village in Brazil for a tourism promotion on frontiering countries (inclusive of Brazil itself and Guyana and Venezuela). She went on to participate in the second annual Rupununi Music Festival held at Rock View in Annai.

In Lethem, she was elected president of the PTA at St Ignatius Nursery School. She served as a judge twice for the Miss Region Nine Heritage pageant and also coordinated the Miss Rupununi Pageant 2015. Prior to this pageant she sponsored and trained contestant, Tayna Barjone, who won the Miss Rodeo 2014 title.

A couple years ago, the dancer moved back to the city with her family and got busy with Nrityageet again. In January this year, the dance group travelled to India to perform at one of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations’ concerts for the seventh International Dance and Music Festival.

This experience is one Rewattie said will remain with her.

Her escapades Of the places she visited, Rewattie said, the Taj Mahal in India is her favourite.

“It’s surreal to have been able to touch a place where the king once lived. The Taj Mahal was built with colourful marble that glittered on [moonlight] nights. I made sure I touched all the walls I could possibly touch,” she reminisced. She added that they were not allowed to enter the building with their shoes and were each given a pair of disposable shoes. Rewattie’s visit brought her other escapades like visiting the City Palace in Rajasthan, Jaipur where she saw the Armory Room dating back to the fifteenth century and the room where the king and queen once sat.

She also had the splendid opportunity of visiting Jantar Mantar, an observatory in New Jersey, where the primary purpose was to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. Some of these purposes nowadays would be classified as astronomy.

Rewattie recounted telling the travel coordinator that the trip would be even nicer if she had the opportunity to ride a camel. No sooner had the words escaped her lips than she saw a caravan of camels. However, she didn’t ride any as they were too small, but she did not pass up the opportunity of riding one when the time did come; an experience she deemed “amazing”.

The mother of two said it is her hope that her children are afforded the same opportunity. as she could never tell it like it is.

Though the list of advantages outnumbers the disadvantages, Rewattie explained that there came a time when she had to put dance away as family was priority. She did not dance for some five years, during some of the time she apent at Lethem. She shared that this was a very difficult time for her, having never been so far from her parents but slowly she grooved in and felt right at home; Lethem, she said, is her second home.

Meantime, Rewattie admonishes young people with aspirations to always aim high and to remember that goals are only achievable through hard work and education. “Nothing comes easy; anything is possible if you work hard for it,” she said.

She has not stopped setting goals for herself. She is thinking big (her term) and hopes that another five/ten years will find her with a degree, pursuing a Masters. She hopes to someday have her PhD in Pharmacy.

Also on her to-do list is to meet Pandit Birju Maharaj (world famous Kathak dancer and choreographer for some of Bollywood reknowned stars including Deepika Padukone and Madhuri Dixit) and be taught at least one class by him.

Today Rewattie is the principal dancer for Nrityageet and one of the directors and teachers as well. She is also the pharmacist and manager at one of Medicare branches.

She enjoys spending time with her family, dancing, reading (adventure and history novels), travelling and cooking gourmet dishes. Her favourite colour is green.

Rewattie is expected to perform at an upcoming show set for a month’s time; the date is still to be confirmed.

 

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