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Kali Veerapadran, 21, is perhaps the only male dancer, who has mastered the classical dance form Bharatanatyam, as well as three ancient Tamil folk dance forms. Born into a family of Hindu Adi Dravidars in Kovalam, a struggling fishing village, not far from Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Kali lost his father very young; it was his mother – a construction labourer – who worked doubly hard to raise him and his many siblings. His talent for dance was spotted in a Tsunami Rehabilitation centre, and a kind sponsor sent him to Kalakshetra, India’s premier dance school, in Chennai. Kali also learnt and quickly mastered three centuries-old folk dances of Tamil Nadu - Oyilaatam, Thappaatam and Karagattam. In May 2014, Kali passed his Diploma in Dance course with a first class. He’s also been admitted to the P.G. Diploma in Dance at Kalakshetra. Kali’s dream is to start a dance school and teach both the folk dance of Tamil Nadu as well as the very classical (but largely inaccessible to the economically underprivileged) dance - Bharatanatyam. And his dream – like his talent – is unique: there haven’t been many attempts to teach the two dance forms, one venerated (Bharatanatyam) and the other neglected (folk dance forms) side-by-side.

(Read Kali's story : http://www.ruralindiaonline.org/articles/kali-the-dancer-and-his-dreams-1/)

Aparna Karthikeyan is an independent multimedia journalist. She documents the vanishing livelihoods of rural Tamil Nadu and volunteers with the People's Archive of Rural India. You can contact the author here: