The Doctor that Danced: An Insight into the Life of Dr Dhanya

By Alison Tan

Medical doctor at Assunta Hospital’s emergency department. Senior dancer at the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) Kuala Lumpur teaching Kathak dance classes in hope of passing her knowledge and skills to the next generation. 

The more we chat during the interview for this article, the more I am truly in awe of Dr Dhanya’s persistence, willpower and inner strength that brought her to where she is today.

“If it truly interests you, you set the limit to how much you can take. Like a rubber band, you can be stretched to a certain point before you break. So, you set your limit and stop when you’ve reached your limit.”

These are her words, and this is the story of the wise, passionate, and humble Dr. Dhanya.

Watch Dr Dhanya in Action:

Discovering Her Love For Dance  

Dr Dhanya’s parents were volunteering at the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) Kuala Lumpur even before she was born. She grew up visiting the TFA. Surrounded by the likes of dance, music, art, and culture, she fell in love with dancing and decided to take up dance classes at the age of eight.

Photography: Dr Dhanya Thurairajah

Since then, her love for dance continued to flourish and enrich her life. It can be seen by the way she spoke about dancing. We saw her eyes glimmer with such passion, and it is telling by her body language and facial expressions that she found a sense of purpose and joy in dance. 

It is with such passion, motivation and willpower that got her to continue pursuing dance while studying medicine at International Medical University (IMU).

Surviving Medical School while Pursuing Dance

Of course, there were ‘sacrifices’ she chose to make along the way to keep up her pursuit of dancing amidst her hectic schedule while studying medicine. She had to miss nights out with friends, events, and gatherings to make time for dance. Even so, she didn’t see them as sacrifices, but more of a choice she made consciously to pursue what she loves.

To paint a clearer picture of her love for dance, she narrated a nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing situation sandwiched between an incredibly tight schedule that set my heart racing when she spoke of the situation. 

At one point during her college years at IMU, she was set to sit for an exam on Monday. But that very weekend before the exam, she had a performance scheduled in Australia! Determined to straddle both, she performed in Australia that weekend but returned to Malaysia early Monday morning to sit for the exam. She got through both! 

Dr Dhanya’s confidence, willpower and passion left me in awe. The path she chose to pursue both passions is astoundingly beautiful. Speaking to her, seeing, and hearing how she spoke about her experiences made me wonder, what was my purpose in life all this while?

Having Dance as an Outlet for Stress Relief 

With the grueling schedule as a houseman required to complete 36 hour shifts, Dr Dhanya had to slip in dance practices at 4 o’clock in the morning before rushing to work her 7 A.M. shift. At times, she will even slot in a mini 30 minutes dance session after that 36 hours shift before heading home to rest. 

Photography: Dr Dhanya Thurairajah (on the right)

Working now as a medical officer at Assunta Hospital’s emergency department, she deals with emergencies, health screenings, and medical check-ups. In the midst of the pandemic, things have been extra stressful for her as a frontliner dealing with the everyday cases of Covid-19 patients in the hospital. Even then, dancing is something she looks forward to especially after a long, dreadful day at the hospital. 

Dr Dhanya expressed that dance is her go-to outlet for stress relief. So, the more stress and pressure she feels, the more she dances. Which is why dancing has especially helped her tremendously through these difficult times. 

Dance has become an outlet for expressing herself, a space where she could feel free. Free from all the world’s problems, free of everyday life worries. Dance gives her the headspace to focus on the present and just live.

Photography: Dr Dhanya Thurairajah

It is truly amazing how dancing gives off a healing effect on a person’s psychological healing and may even help those struggling with their mental health. As a dancer herself, her Guru, Swamiji once said that “a vibrational energy is formed when they dance, so much so that it gives a sense of psychological or spiritual healing to the audience leading them to forget their current struggles and feel lighter when the performance ends”. 

Photography: Dr Dhanya Thurairajah (seated in the middle)
Photography: Dr Dhanya Thurairajah

Especially prevalent in Asian cultures are stories of parents pressuring their kids to do well in science and maths, but rarely encouraging their child to pursue the arts (even if their child is good or interested in it). 

Dr Dhanya has shown us that with relentless pursuit, both are possible. She encourages parents to provide opportunities for children to explore their interest in the arts as it is a vital part of growing up. Her message to parents – since every child is different, expose your children to as many different arts as possible so your children can discover what they enjoy most. And with time, they will find their passion.

My heart goes out to those who were discouraged as a child in pursuing the arts. I was one of them. Perhaps this is a good time for us to discover our passion or as adults now, to continue pursuing the childhood dream that was diminished when we were younger?  

As expressed by Dr Dhanya, it’s important to hold on to your passion and grab onto opportunities that come your way. You are never too old or too young to chase your passion. 

To find something that takes our minds off work, to heal the mind and soul, to place balance in our lives. Then like Dr Dhanya,  we could be better positioned each day in facing our challenges head-on. 

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