It is often said that a dancer embodies the true spirit of the universe as it involves no caste, colour, religion or gender. It is an artistic form of self-expression that sometimes transcends space and time as well. Author Anmol Arora explores themes of identity, love and ambition through dance in a compelling debut novel, The Last Dance, published by Speaking Tiger Publishing that carries the reader along with it till the end.
At the peak of the Kurdish-Turkey conflict in 1991, 11-year-old Ayla and her family find themselves embroiled in controversy. Her father has been accused of anti-national activities which forces them to flee their homeland and take refuge in Delhi. An offhand prediction by a fortune teller convinces Ayla’s mother that her daughter was born for the world of dance. She enrols Ayla in a Pratistha, a dance school run by Guru Chandrashekhar. Ayla develops a fascination for Bharatnatyam, and sets her sights on fame and success as a dancer.
Ayla is keen to perform her arangetram, a dancer’s first solo performance, but Chandrashekhar, traditional in his ways, refuses to let her do so until he is sure she is ready. Ayla’s frustration leads to an abrupt and unceremonious falling out and she joins Studio Anubhooti, a rival dance school run by Guru Ranmohan.
Ranmohan promises Ayla an arangetram, but what follows is a tragedy. Traumatized and disillusioned, Ayla gives up on her dreams. Destiny reunites her with Chandrashekhar years later. The ensuing journey transforms them both in fundamental ways. They begin to question their beliefs, their life-choices and assumptions, and in turn discover new possibilities. Finally, Ayla performs her arangetram—in a way she could never have imagined.
The Last Dance is written in a simple and clear manner. However, there is an underlying message of ending and beginnings and a life that always comes full circle.