Anand Dhanakoti was born to a coconut seller, K Dhanakoti, in the slums of Ragigudda. His mother worked as domestic help.
He was all of seven when financial crisis at home forced him to drop out of Class 3 from a government primary school at JP Nagar, Bengaluru.
While most kids his age played the ball or perhaps spent a majority of their time getting enlightened within the four walls of their classrooms, Anand sifted through garbage, picking rags to make ends meet.
Circumstances pushed him into child labour where he would do a string of menial jobs like working as a bike mechanic, serving in hotels and even helping his father cut tender coconuts at their stall.
But at 11, his life changed. Thanks to the NGO, Born Free Arts School, which took the young boy under its wings.
From dance to music, painting, photography, filming, sculpting, and theatre, Born Free Arts School used art forms that helped Anand transition from the streets to the classroom, and he was blessed with another chance at formal education.
He recalls how he witnessed a performance after a year at the school that inspired him to take up dancing as a profession. A young Anand looked enthralled as the ballet dancer, and the founder of the Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet, Yana Lewis, gave her performance.
Speaking to The Times of India, he says, “I was caught up in the music, dance, spirit, and energy of her performance. And that’s how my journey into the world of ballet, jazz and contemporary dance started.”
After 14 years of studying classical ballet and jazz, at 25, this Bengaluru boy who rose from rags has received a golden ticket to live his ultimate dancing dream.
Anand has won a scholarship for a three-year degree programme at the Contemporary School of Dance, Hamburg, Germany. But this scholarship only funds 50% of his fees. And so Anand is now raising money to turn his dream into reality through crowdfunding via fueladream.com.
He has received the support of 50 funders, who have shelled Rs 4.8 lakh out of the Rs 9.5 lakh he requires. This amount includes expenses for his tuition, project work, flight tickets, accommodation and food. He still requires another Rs 4.7 lakh.
Speaking to the publication, Elina Wisung, his teacher at Lewis Foundation, shared the struggles Anand had to face to prove his merit as a dancer.
“He has outstanding talent and brought so much energy and passion. We knew even then that this kid was destined for bigger things. For a ballet dancer, foot flexibility is important. Anand had flat feet, which would have been great for football but not for classical dance. So he had to work twice as hard as his classmates to get to the professional level,” she told TOI.
This wasn’t all.
Anand never had it easy. If his classmates worked hard, Anand had to work twice as hard. Apart from being trained at the school, he would do menial jobs to fund his education. Every day, he would travel 30 km from his home in JP Nagar to the dance school in Malleswaram.
Through sheer hard work and dedication, the boy managed to rejoin mainstream education at 13, in Class VII at St Joseph’s School, Bengaluru. The school was impressed with Anand’s academic excellence and awarded him scholarships.
Anand told the publication, “I always studied hard because I knew we (my family) couldn’t afford to pay fees. Even for my BA in economics, I got a scholarship to study at St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science.”
Apart from ballet and jazz, Anand is also trained in the martial art form kalarippayattu and is a national-level gymnastics champion. He cliched a Karnataka state-level gold medal in 2009 and a nation-level silver medal for gymnastics in 2010.
Requesting people to come forward and help him, he says, “From 2018 to 2020, I want to attend the Contemporary Dance School Hamburg, Germany, and develop my artistic skills. After graduating, I would like to work as a freelance dancer abroad to gain more experience through the international dance community. I would like to gain management skills, importantly, on how to run a dance school.
“After working abroad, I want to come back to India and start a dance school in Mysore or Coimbatore. India needs more professional-career oriented dance schools and colleges. Therefore, my dream is to start one. I would like to conduct outreach programs, providing therapeutic dance for underprivileged children (juveniles and substance-abuse victims) and communities in slums and tribal communities.”
We hope Anand fulfils his dancing dreams.
Contribute here, if you wish to fuel Anand’s dream.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)