One of the shlokas in Nandikeshwar’s laghu granth ( epic) “Abhinaya Darpana” (The Mirror of Gesture) describes vividness in dancing as,
“Yato Hasta tato Drishti yato Drishti tato Mana
Yato Mana tato Bhaava Yato Bhaava tato Rasaha”
2017-Class reuinion India
2017-Class reunion India
2013 – class performance USA
Philosophically, where your hand goes, the eyes trace the path, your heart cruises along with the glances giving rise to various emotions and those emotions embellish the dance- generating “Rasa”!
I completed my basic training in Indian classical dance Bharatnatyam in the year 1998 and obtained the degree or Nritya Visharad which is a bachelors in Bharatnatyam form of dance. Lot of literature is available about the dance form and how over the years it has attained the present shape from its lineage that trace to the ancient sanskrit text by Bharata Muni, Natya Shastra.
This blog post is specifically dedicated to those people who like me have been meaning to and either are struggling or just haven’t found the necessary motivation and push to dance again. After getting Visharad I did not continue dancing , the last I danced was in 2004 during a dance workshop. Like many, dance lost its place in my life, with earning livelihood gaining utmost priority.
Years later, to be precise 8 – I met dancing and the feeling was “Hey Stranger, where have you been?, I have missed you!!” During a yoga session, I did dancers pose and the instructor and I were both pleasantly surprised to see the ease with which I could not only get but retain the pose without loosing balance. It was though difficult remembering that dancing had been a very integral part of me for more than a decade!
I was in the United States then but I managed to find a dance teacher, I was skeptical, I was scared and more than that I didn’t want to be graded and fail .
“You have to be able to accept failure to get better”- LeBron James.
I did taste failure on stage during a class performance in 2013 and almost quit. When you try to dance, irrespective of the dance form, after a decade it isn’t an easy comeback. Your physical strength is not the same and the body does not respond as quickly as it could previously. You are not only trying to bridge the gap of years lost without dancing but you are working against age, age that is acting as an opposing force.
Few things that held me together as I walked through the path
I practiced Yin -Yang yoga and Pilates. Even today every opportunity I get I find time for it. Yoga helps break the stiffness in the connective tissues. In yin-yang holding poses/asanas for longer durations – few minutes and suryanamaskars at a rapid pace helps you condition your body. Not many realize that though dancing is a very good form of exercise it generates lot of fatigue and weariness of different body parts that are extensively used. Like a sports person you have to be nurturing yourself through diet and other exercises to prolong your years in dancing.
Renowned Bharatnatyam dancer Late Balasaraswati has said,
” Bharatnatyam is a artistic yoga that is natya yoga for revealing the spiritual through the corporeals”. (1)
When you trying to make a comeback to dancing, it is essential that you find the right mentors and gurus or teachers to guide you through your journey. As strenuous as the path is without them , it is impossible to go beyond a few steps. I have been very lucky to find such mentors and gurus for both yoga and dancing. Though Indian Classical dance has evolved over time one thing that is still a very innate element is the Guru-Shishya Parampara. Guru has a stature paralleled to the Omnipotent and at the same time Guru becomes your family. To quote 15th Century saint and poet Kabir,
“Guru Govind dou khade, kake lagoon paay,
Balihari Guru aapno, Govind diyo batay”
which literally means, when both the God and Guru are standing together, whose feet should I touch first to get the blessings- I would have not know God without your teachings.
This also leads to the third and the most fundamental necessity to become a good dancer Meditation.
As dreary and boring it may sound, dancing; and not just indian classical dancing, requires you to be one with your soul, which means you need to be aware of every single twist and turn of your body. To put in words of one of my dance mentor’s and a friend “Listen to your body”. You cannot do that until your mind has quiet down. There is so much noise in and around that we seldom feel our own breathing. The only way to filter excessive noise is through meditation. Meditation does not mean you need to go through a rigorous practice, its always phenomenal if you are following one . Meditation for dancing is before each dance session if you can sit for 15 minutes either in simple padmasana (Lotus pose) or any other that is comfortable to you with your eyes closed and try to quiet down, feel your breath it’s proven to be beneficial.
Last but not the very least, attend workshops, training sessions, watch other dancers perform and try to understand the techniques and variations they are bringing to the form of dance . I have followed this tricks and tactics and it has helped me a lot. I would say after 4 years I started my regular dance practice without wearing out every other day. Recently, I attended a dance discussion held in my hometown Surat, India by renowned artist and kalaguru Shri Deepak Mazumdar and a 2 hour session by him, told me that there is a lot to learn, a good teacher is always the best student. I hope to share my learnings as I go deeper ………
2018- Renowned artist and Kalaguru Shri Deepak Mazumdar in Surat
2018- Shri Deepak Mazumdar discussing basics of dance
All, my yoga sessions ended with the sound of om – to end this blog post OM
Shri Bhaskar Menon & Smt. Radha Bhaskar , 2013, "Ananta Nrityam",Ahmedabad, India, Elite Printers