Parigal Thiru still remembers his disappointment when he didn't get to dance.
In 1992, he was all set to participate in a performance at FeTNA, an annual gathering of Tamil cultural organizations across North America. "Halfway through rehearsals I came down with chicken pox, so that was the end of that," he said.
Now Mr. Thiru, 34, a planner with York Region, is not only participating in FeTNA. he's part of the reason the event is in Toronto this weekend.
For the first time in its 26-year history, the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) convention is being held outside the United States. Mr. Thiru joined the organization in 2009 and pushed for Toronto as a destination.
"We have over 250,000 Tamils in the GTA alone," Mr. Thiru said. "Given the calibre of the community, whether it's the arts or business angle, or just from a cultural angle … Toronto is the ideal place to hold FeTNA."
For Aarani Ravendravarman, the convention is a one-stop shop to experience all aspects of her Tamil heritage.
"When I was younger … I was connected very superficially [to my Tamil identity], through Tamil movies and songs," said Ms. Ravendravarman, 27, who works part-time for the David Suzuki Foundation.
As she grew older, so did her interest in the rich tradition she came from. She wants to "take in as much as I can [this weekend] ... and go away wanting to learn more. Like the epic dance drama – I can't wait to see it on stage."
Ms. Ravendravarman is referring to Sivagamiyin Sabatham, a dance drama based on a historical thriller set in seventh-century south India that was performed at the Sony Centre Friday. It was choreographed by renowned classical Indian Bharatanatyam dancer Madurai R. Muralidharan, who flew in from India this week to oversee the final preparations.
In anticipation of Mr. Muralidharan's arrival, celebrity actor-dancer-choreographer Nanda and well-known Bharatanatyam dancer Uma Murali took charge. Both had flown in from India a few months ago.
In Toronto, 120 dance students – mostly young girls – from different schools across the GTA teaching different styles of Bharatanatyam had been practising their parts since the mid-April auditions.
The convention continues until Sunday. Events on Saturday at the Sony Centre include:
ABUSEd: Choreographed by a group of Toronto classical and contemporary artists, this dance performance addresses the issue of domestic violence – a taboo topic in the Tamil community. 4 p.m.
Water : Inspired by the Hindu mythology of Dasavatar, this dance performance has been choreographed by Nanda, famous in the Tamil community for having won the South Indian dance talent TV show Ungalil Yaar Adutha Prabhu Deva . It also features local dancers. Saturday, 5:20 p.m.
Kollywood Concert: The final event of the evening features famous Tamil playback singers Mano, Charulatha Mani, Satyhaprakash and Praghati. The singers will be backed up local Tamil band AGNI. 8 p.m.
Schedule is subject to change.