ARPANA Blog

Art of Bullying a Bully

A pretty inexplicably crazy incident happened to me a few days back. My immediate thought was “ What a fucking waste of time to have to deal with this shit, unnecessarily”. But since I had spent some time on dealing with the issue already, I thought why not give it a little more and change the situation from being a mere irritant into something valuable to some other dancers.

So here it goes, I present to you my post on the subtle or not so subtle Art of Bullying a Bully.

I am dealing with the microcosm of the dance scene in India, how it is replete with bullying and probably how it is perhaps an apt reflection of the macrocosm of our Indian culture.

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I am tough. Tougher than most people I know. Men included. It could be because of the fact that I am and have always been very tiny, occupying little space, easy to brush to the side. A very easy target for bullies. I grew up playing cricket with the most rowdy boys on the street. The kind of boys ,who were children my age, but would steal beedis from construction workers and smoke it behind the expansive protection of the Gul mohar tree on our street. Another favourite pastime of theirs was singing lewd songs and flashing the girls who worked in the beauty parlour down my street. There would be a lot of fighting going on when we played.I’ve even got a scar on my hand where one boy in the middle of a fight got a blade out and tore my forearm.

I learnt to survive, to strategize, to stand up for myself. I got so good at this, I was even made captain of one of the teams., which possibly is my highest achievement till date.

With rowdy boys it is easy. The bullying is very apparent. And when you assert your power they back off and there is a possibility for even mutual respect and friendship later.

However the bullying in the dance world is not so apparent. It’s very insiduous. A lot of times it was only post the incident that I even realised what a big bully that person had been. It has taken me sometime to understand and deal with this. But I am happy to share this information with you if it will help you recognise bullying in your own life.A friend who does training for big corporates on leadership, recently messaged and told me “ people should learn how to be assertive from you.”. And its probably true. If there’s one thing I could hope to contribute, perhaps it’s this. And perhaps someone reading this may learn to cope with an unpleasant situation in a better way.

In the dance community you are not encouraged to speak if you are not very old, very rich or very male. Me being none of the above was constantly told to just follow instructions and not ask any questions. This led to a lot of bullying. And I was not able to raise my voice or stand up for myself because I was led to believe that it was super disrespectful. In fact, I have even broken down and cried on some occasions because I have wanted to speak against the injustice of the situation, but kept telling myself I shouldn’t. I created an inner conflict which could only be resolved at that moment by a fountain of tears. This kind of conflict serves no purpose and needs to go.

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Let’s first look at this crazy incident that happened to me. There I was going about my normal day when I get a message from a friend. It has a screenshot of a dancer’s Facebook post and this is what it says:

click on image to enlarge

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I don’t want to reveal the name of the dancer because my fight is not against her, and this post is far more important than this petty thing she just did. If you are a dancer you will probably know whom I’m talking about anyway. And if you don’t know, then I don’t want to be the person who is slinging mud on someones name.

I couldn’t understand where this came from because there was absolutely no need for this. In 2012 as soon as I started my dance school, I had no work because despite several applications it was clear I wasn’t going to get a chance to perform anywhere. Also I had one single student. For the longest time. She was a very interesting, fun person so I still loved my classes, but apart from those couple of hours a week I didn’t have any work to do.

It was during this time that this disparaging dancer started calling me incessantly, inviting me to dance in her program because she was short of dancers. I agreed because she was so ingratiating and I thought why the hell not! Throughout rehearsals she was always extra polite with me, and a lot of fellow dancers even told me sarcastically how clever I am because I’m being paid twice as much as they are. (Which then goes into the complex area of dancers disparaging people for being smart but perhaps that requires a different post altogether). On the performance day I introduced her to my partner SG who even told her that he is there as my cameraman to film the dance.

By 2013 I had still not become wise and I was applying futilely for festivals. Someone suggested adding video links to my application. I had only 3 videos of me dancing on our handicam. One group, one duet and one solo. I uploaded the solo as a longer video and edited the other two and put it under groups/duets. None of the YouTube videos had any text, in fact I had not even understood YouTube properly then. It was just a means of uploading my video. I would apply for festivals saying “ I am the dancer in maroon”. Needless to say this strategy didn’t work either!

It took me sometime to understand my purpose as a dancer. And I started breaking free from the very narrow confines I was trying to squeeze myself into. And after that life took a very nice different turn for me.

And after all these years at the tail end of 2017 without any rhyme, reason or warning she decides to post this. Completely character assassinate me. And 200 people or so decide to join her in the mud fest and call me all kinds of names, including a fraud, a cheat, someone who has lost my soul, and other really unpleasant things.

I want to talk about another incident too before we get into the actual post itself (hey I’m a talker! get used to it!). A week or so before this I had posted on a public forum on how we should be looking to improve the management of a certain dance school. You may ask me, if this wasn’t mud slinging or bullying on my part as well. Simple answer is- it wasn’t. For the more complex answer let’s get into the post

How To Recognise a Bully?

1.Bullies are very averse to dialogue.

For instance this dancer who posted this about me had blocked me on Facebook and there was no way to respond to her through that platform. Also when my friend Sindhu posted this on her wall: she immediately deleted the comment and blocked Sindhu as well. Btw great to have friends no?!

sindhu messageMy post about the dance school on the other hand is public. Anyone can post on it. The dance school can see it if they are interested. And it is my way of initiating a dialogue.

Dialogue is a meaningful exchange. Not just people repeating their stand over and over again without substance. Dialogue doesn’t mean bringing in non-related issues, or talking from a stand point where you clearly have no knowledge about the situation. In a dialogue people exchange value. People who are against dialogue are violent. And this is a big trademark of a bully.

2. Bullies are power hungry

How do you recognise power hungry people? Power hungry people tend towards hierarchical structures. They love status-quo and don’t do well with change. They don’t like questions. They like to exert control by manipulation, don’t like being open and sharing information.

Let me give you an example. Some years ago I was working with a certain senior dancer, whom I am not going to mention, because I have nothing personal against her. And she is one of too many similar people in the dance field. We were working towards a production and had regular rehearsals. One day a dancer messaged asking me about something and I said – hey, i’ll meet you at rehearsals anyway so I’ll tell you then. Then this dancer said – “ What rehearsals? I haven’t been informed.” I said “ We are working towards this show, how come you don’t know? Why don’t you message and ask her about it.”

This harmless incident turned into some kind of ugly power issue. With that senior dancer sending me a curt email informing me that it is not my place to disclose information, because she had decided she didn’t want this particular dancer anymore. She had not even bothered to inform this person or me, so tough luck on that!

This made no sense to me. And I replied – “ I’m getting fed up of this (or something along those lines) Also I clearly mentioned I don’t want to work for someone who tells me what my place is. (I’m allergic to such language) Her reaction was very interesting. She immediately picked up the phone and told me in these exact words “ If you leave this production, don’t come to me asking me for a recommendation later.” I had never dreamt of asking for this in the first place. I only joined her production because I thought the work would be interesting not because I needed anything from her or her “name”. What I wanted to say was “moham moozhgi paazhaagaathey maya vaazhvu sathama”  what I said instead was “ That’s the last thing you ever have to worry about” .

Very important Tip: Look out for people who use terms such as “How can You say this?”. These are the people who want to put you “in place”, in a box, where they define what you are allowed to say or not say. Instead the kind of people you want to surround yourself with or be yourself, are the people who say “ Why do you say this?”, “What’s the reason?” “ Tell me more” These are the people who want to hear you, want to understand the situation. And have no issues with you talking. And they don’t think that if you raise a question you are holding a cannon ball in your hand.

 Random Fact: Bullies also often use Caps when they type. LIKE THEY ARE SCREAMING EVERY SENTENCE IN YOUR FACE. This is true, I’ve studied bullies and find this a common trait.

3. Bullies like to ostracise

Bullies understand one thing very well. Which is strength in numbers. They like to draw lines on who can join something, and who has to stay on the other side of the line. Very clear caste systems. They like rallying support against a certain person. For instance getting 200 people on Facebook to mud sling a person they don’t even know.

Very Important Tip Number 2:  We all have a great need to belong. However social ostracisation or being a social outcaste is not a bad thing. I am often a social outcaste in many different scenarios. It is difficult to deal with in the beginning. But you soon realise there is a complete alternate society of us black sheep! Only when you get yourself out-casted from “normal” society, you join a tribe of your kind. And they go out of their way to shower love on you. Then you wish that you had gotten outcasted earlier.

The only time I would be terrified of being a social outcaste is, if I had done something to deserve it. For instance if I had been a bitch and posted something so awful about another dancer, whether it was warranted or not, and seeing that if society had ostracised me, then I would’ve felt terrible. But otherwise when you’ve done no evil then just happily get thrown out, thats the first way to find your tribe.

4. Bullies are anti-growth, anti-connection, anti-change, anti-humour

Change often means challenging hierarchy. Bullies don’t like that. I remember when I started my dance school, I enrolled in a senior dancer’s workshop to learn an item. When I walked in, there was a group of established Odissi teachers and the whole lot of workshop participants, including kids. One teacher said – ‘Oh look who is here. The new big Guru!’ Then she asked me ‘ So Ashwini what should we call you now? Should I say Guru? Should I fall on your feet?’ I said ” Didi you can call me Ash because that’s what my students call me, and the idea that they have to touch my feet will make them laugh very hard”.

Coming to this incident on hand: Frankly on the day this happened, I was very amused. When other dancers messaged me in support, I told them- We should be more understanding, I think she’s going through menopause.

So tongue-in-cheek I sent this to a WhatsApp group of Odissi dancers in Bangalore the next day.

my whatsapp message

This is the reply I got on

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My reaction- Yeah Right!

On the issue of credits/copyrights: ever since I started dancing professionally in 1998, I have come across some dancers who are always harping about how other people are copying them. I’ve always felt this was such a waste of time and this was creating barriers in this already small island for no purpose.  For one it is dance for Christsake! It is meant to connect, not divide. Secondly there is nothing original in this world. Thirdly you should not have that big an ego to assume your work is so wonderful that other dancers want to copy it and that because they copied it they became superstars. (I really don’t know for sure what goes on inside their heads. maybe someday we can sit over a cup of coffee or better still a glass of kombucha and talk it over. then i will have better insight)

Kelucharan Mohapatra never worried about it one bit. Went out spread his dance, made connections, and is so alive through his work till today.

But coming to the issue of credits anyways. Like I said, I hadn’t posted anything on those videos. I posted the video only for two reasons 1) I needed some video to show people how I dance and I had only three videos and uploaded them all 2) I thought for once I had got my make up right and I didn’t look half bad.

But if she had simply asked me to I would’ve credited her name. I would have also credited Kelucharan Mohapatra’s and Ratikant Mohapatra’s name because the video has me dancing all three of their dances. Also I would have asked her to credit the names of the dancers in the video she has uploaded. Pot calling kettle black my friend! Unfair to leave out the names of the dancers who worked hard for your show. Don’t they deserve it as well?

6. Bullies use shame as a tool

This is when I stop laughing. Because I hate it. I hate it when a person/society uses shame to control another person. This lady could have messaged me and said – “ Please add credits” which I would have promptly done. Instead she chose to publicly shame me. This happens a lot in different scenarios. In a very low level it shows up as a Facebook shaming post. In more serious scenarios shame is used in very scary, dangerous ways. And I fucking hate it.

How do You Confront a Bully?

1.Raise Your Voice

I remember I was 16 standing in a bus stop. A guy who was in his 50s kept falling all over me even though the bus stop was empty and he could’ve stood anywhere. For sometime I was going through this phase of dealing with sick men on buses. I never really knew what to do. And kept finding myself thinking of what I could have done but didn’t. That particular day however without giving it much thought, I instinctively started shouting at him. By looking at his face it was clear this was the last thing he expected. It wasn’t really what I had expected either. But I somehow understood how I had taken my power back. I then told him go stand next to that tree. He moved away from me. Then I said in a very low controlled tone – “ I said go stand next to the tree.” You won’t believe it, but this big man actually walked all the way and stood next to the tree till he jumped onto the first bus that came there.

There is a lot of power in simply raising your voice. In any context.

2. Use your brains. Articulate

When in a situation involving bullying it is very easy to get emotionally mixed up. This hinders your thinking. For many people they feel uncomfortable in situations and get emotionally upset (quite like me breaking down in situations in the past) because they feel that something is not right, not just, or totally unfair. But it is not helpful to be merely emotional if you can’t articulate yourself. You need to be present in a manner where you see what exactly is going on. So you can speak up and make sense. This may sound difficult. But with a regular meditation practice of any kind that suits you, you begin to de-clutter your mind and improve your thinking and get clarity in situations. I have been practising regular meditation and self hypnosis for sometime now. This has changed my perspective immensely and improved my capacity to think exponentially as compared to before.

3. Don’t get scared

Like I mentioned earlier, Shame is a complex thing. But always keep your Shame Gauge within. You should be the one who steers your moral compass. Don’t allow people from outside to use shame as a tool against you. When they try to shame you, for no fault of yours, understand that these people are scummy weasels. Nothing to fear from scummy weasels

4. Don’t let nobility hold you back

I remember an incident where two artistes were bitching about another artiste. They would say two nasty things about her and then they would say ‘actually she is a nice person’. After 5 minutes of hearing that conversation I asked them – Why are you being so schizophrenic? They actually said – because we are not the bitchy type!”

We all tend to be funny like this. We will hold an ideal in our head and strive to be exactly like that. Not seeing how horrible we can be as well. So the best strategy is don’t define yourself as noble or as bitchy. You just are you. Another person trying to pay bills, making ends meet, making something of your life or just dealing with everything thrown at you. When people treat you nicely, you be nice. When people treat you like shit- don’t stand for it. That doesn’t make you a bitch. Even if people do call you a bitch, remember that bitches are far more fun.

Also people who tend to think they are Mother Theresa  and don’t say anything against their Bully, often repress it inside and it turns into something else, and they find life dull or difficult without being able to name a reason of why it is so. But people who speak up and say what they have to (not ‘want to’  but ‘have to’. Because no one likes unpleasant conversations. But unpleasant conversations are necessary) are much free-er. The simple fact that I have spoken against my bullies, makes me hold no personal resentment against them. I can happily see them anywhere without any discomfort inside me.

Don’t be an arsehole yourself. But when confronted with a jerk, you not standing up against them only allows more jerkiness in the world.

5. Be open minded. But not so open minded that the wind whistles in your head.

This means try to be open so that the exact issue can be uncovered. Being scared of your bully, being respectful towards your bully, thinking of yourself as a lesser human being than your bully, all of this creates an atmosphere which is averse to truth.

People think being open means, to take all the criticism and bullying from someone and not say a word. You have to understand if the criticism is coming from someone genuine. For that you need to stay open. But when you realise it’s coming from a weasel then you don’t have to engage anymore. Engaging with jerks is futile. Be ready for dialogue, but be open to realise what is dialogue and what isn’t.

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I have had great gurus (i don’t mean dance gurus) whose words have made me a much free-er person. I believe that words have that power to lead us to freedom.You as a dancer may have come across bullying as well, and may relate to this and this may help you feel more free. Or you maybe someone who thinks this post is total bullshit. Either ways feel free to comment. Also tell me if I have overlooked something in my thesis on B.S :Bully Studies.

Another big point of writing this post is to tell people to think not once or twice but 49 times and once again for good luck, before they think of messing with me. Because you know what I’ll do? Yeah that’s right. Write another fucking long post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance Classification: Nritta and Abhinaya

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Odissi, like other Indian Classical dance forms is classified into two kinds of presentations: Nritta and Abhinaya.

Nritta is abstract dance, where the body makes patterns in space and there is no particular meaning attached to any gesture or movement. Each form of Indian Classical Dance has its own technique and relies on a vast vocabulary of movement.

technique
tɛkˈniːk/
noun
a way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure.

Odissi nritta is based on the vocabulary of steppings, charis, brahmaris, utplavanas and other such movements. Even though mudras are used vastly in nritta, they are not used to convey stories.

Nritta is designed around tala and raga. Time measure is an important part of nritta and exploration of the rise and fall of a raga.

Thus the main aspects of dance Space, Time, Energy and Movement form the foundation of nritta as they do with any other dance form around the world.

Abhinaya: However Indian Classical dances have a very unique feature- a tradition of story-telling.  This concept of dance is called Abhinaya- abhi- ‘towards’ + nii(naya)- ‘leading/guide’, so literally it means a ‘leading towards’ (leading the audience towards a sentiment, a rasa). Dancers bring forth stories based in myth or even contemporary commentary to invoke a certain response in the audience.

Other forms of dance such as ballet and certain folk dances build stories through dance but it is in a dance-drama format. In Indian classical dances each individual dancer brings forth stories through a vast well codified vocabulary that is studied for this purpose.

This story telling is brought forth with the use of mudras and bhavas. Mudras are gestures of the fingers and bhavas are the emotions that a dancer employs. Each mudra is given a name and a list of uses (uses of each mudra is known as the viniyoga of a mudra). This dictionary of mudras and their uses are the basis of story- telling, so both the dancer and the audience has to have an understanding of the uses of the mudras to understand the story. The music for abhinaya pieces are set to lines of beautiful poetry, which an audience can listen to, to gain a better understanding of the story the dancer is portraying. Sometimes an audience foreign to the vocabulary of Indian dance, or even without knowing any Indian language can still follow the story because of a dancer’s ability to portray emotion.

Thus we can further classify abhinaya as being of four kinds:

1)Angika- physical- where the dancers employs her body or parts of her body, such as her fingers,

2)Vachika- speech- where dancers perform to songs and poetry, or sometimes even sing themselves

3)Aharya-ornamentation- where dancers make use of stage props, costumes and ornaments to depict settings and characters

4)Satvika- emotions- where dancers bring forth emotions and convey messages through feeling  a characters emotions

Alternate Classification

If story telling is termed as abhinaya, or taking the audience towards a certain feeling, does that mean that when a dancer dances nritta she makes the audience feel nothing? As dancers one often finds that even while doing abstract movements one is always making up stories of one’s own, infusing each gesture with one’s own meaning and the aim is always to connect to the audience- to make them feel something. Keeping this aspect in mind people often go beyond the simplistic classification of dance into nritta and abhinaya and instead talk of dance only being abhinaya- but divided into nritta, nrithya and natya. Nritta- the use of the body and rhythmic movement falling under angika abhinaya. Nrithya- story telling through the use of angika abhinaya and satvika abhinaya. And finally Natya being a musical dance drama style using all aspects of abhinaya and even having group performers.

 

Arpana Dancer Stories: Kavya Bharadwaj

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Kavya sent me this in November of 2015. We had a mishap with the blog, with the entire site getting deleted! Which is why we didn’t post this earlier. We are back on track and will be posting regularly henceforth.

Kavya is now preparing for the first Odissi performance on Saturday, July 2nd. We hope her own reflections months back will inspire her today! (Especially the punctuality bit perhaps!)

Over to Kavya:

India has been and is still a country with various cultural art forms in its platter for centuries. Every art form never the less is beautiful and has its own aesthetics, significance and a rich history. It is gracious as to how an art form has been celebrated, transferred and spreading joy since centuries. This never failed to surprise me every time I give it a thought. Artists spread euphoric bliss by just sharing their own way of celebrating a discipline to which they have willingly surrendered. Dance, music, theater, painting, storytelling etc. has always been what the mankind has turned to for their recreation. The very word recreation has a very deep sense to it, and an artist contributing to it ever since history can be tracked
down just proves to us on what an important role they play in everyone’s life. Paying all my respects to the artists living, dead and the ones yet to come, I would like to share my experience about how I came across a beautiful dance form which always made everything around me better and beautiful.

In India, we see this paradigm of small kids at the age even before 5 being put into some form of art class just to match up to the practice of “every child being involved in some sort of extracurricular activity.” I personally feel that this is being imposed upon the kids even before they realize to themselves as to what do they really want to learn and inclined towards. I was not spared as well. I started to learn Bharatnatyam when I was 5. Ofcourse, I enjoyed myself dancing and I always felt lucky about meeting my Bharatnatyam teacher and having being taught by her. Yet, as I got older it started to dawn upon me that I practiced it because I was told to, because it became a routine for me to dance and because I am conditioned to feel incomplete when I missed classes for a long time. There is no doubt about my love towards that form of dance. But, is that really MY CHOICE of art form to learn is what I kept asking myself. Due to certain situations I had to discontinue my classes.

When I was 18, I was just browsing through the internet and wanted to watch a Bharatnatyam piece because I felt I like watching it. Somewhere in a corner which said “videos you might be interested in” showed a dance piece by Sujata Mohapatra. I clicked on it and ever since I am hooked. I can go to an extent to call that the best click of my life. Since 18 to 23 I watched Odissi videos for my recreation, sometimes when I was bored, sometimes when I was low and sometimes took out time just to watch it. It’s my belief that loving and choosing a teacher you want to learn from is equally important as choosing an art form you really want to learn. I kept watching videos and was also searching for a teacher from
whom I was determined to learn. When I was 21 I heard about this Odissi flash mob in a very prominent mall in Bangalore. First thing I did was to check it out on YouTube. Sometimes you just have no reasons as to why you can connect to someone or something. The same way, I was awestruck by the concept and the dance. And that is when I decided on whom I want to learn it from. It took me two years to step into her dance class as a student. From 2013-2015 I tenaciously followed the Facebook page of the academy and her performances. The first day I of my Odissi dance class is something I will never forget. I was excited and delighted when all that was happening for real. Every moment I danced since that day, the dance never failed to remind me why I am in love with it.

When we learn an art form which is also a discipline, I feel it’s more than just the form itself that we are learning. The way I was taught this form was to feel that I was connected by a thread to the sky and the ground when I sat in a chauka, to feel like a tree with strong roots grounded and the upper body swaying with the wind, to feel like a mercury, to take in all the energy by this exercise of lifting the light and forming it into a ball to take in all the energy. This made me observe and feel the movements in my body consciously with all the focus. I felt like I was more connected to everything around me. This unusual feeling made me introspect further and go deeper into it. To my surprise, I started to realize
that the practice of not keeping my body tense while I was anxious be it any part like the slightest frown of my brow or lifting my shoulders while I was tensed started to recede. I was able to do this because Odissi has taught me observe my body more meticulously and which needs constant focus and alertness of yourself. And this simple exercise improvised my state of being immensely. I will not stop myself from saying that this is just a small dust particle of the scratch about how it made me aware of what this dance form has in its store for me. As the classes kept happening, I was taught and made aware about how serious discipline this is. I was once sent back from my dance class because I was late to the class. My teacher told me that there is a system she had been following and everyone has to stick by it. I was in the verge to negotiate with her to dance an hour extra to make up for it. That’s when it struck me that she was disciplining me and dancing an hour extra is not even a punishment. Dancing is never punishment. Given my usually unpunctual behavior, that was one of the very rare times when I swore to myself that I will never be late again. Because you just happen to take something you love seriously. It was a matter of time for me to notice how this gets order, happiness and awareness into me.

Coming back to where I started, I profoundly believe that all this is happening because this is art form I CHOSE to learn. The form I loved and admired. If all of them are given a choice to learn what THEY are inclined towards, it not only helps in celebrating an art in a better way but also will be rightly valued.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the Leap

Ashwini Raghupathy

(This post is for anyone considering taking up dance as a full time career, after going through a significant period of practice in a style of dance.)

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One of my students wrote to me yesterday stating her confusion in choosing a path for herself after her imminent graduation from college. She is torn between taking up a regular job or choosing to dance full time.I copy my reply to her here, thinking that it could probably help one other such person who finds themselves at cross roads too.

I have met a lot of people who have worked for several years and bitterly regret not taking the leap of faith into dance. Equally so I have met people who get so carried away by the romance of the dance that they immediately drop everything and take up dance as a career, and are rudely woken up to the fact that they don’t have what it takes to take up this discipline.

So here is an extract from my e-mail, it is written conversationally, and is an extract so it may not read very well.  :

“Dear S

I’m really happy to hear that you have been practising and that you want to pursure dancing . :)

About taking it up full time- I can only tell you how I made the decision to do so.

I started learning Odissi when I was 18. I was then also dancing professionally with a contemporary dance company and earning enough to pay my college fees and save up a bit too. After I finished college- I left the dance company and I took up a job at an NGO (I used to teach dance there as a volunteer throughout my degree) and then I worked in different organizations for five years. throughout these five years I was learning Odissi on and off (I had a job where I had to travel a lot and was not around to learn systematically- also I faced the challenge of not finding good teachers)

From the age of 18 to 25 I was all over the place emotionally/mentally. I tried a million things. If I look back- I feel I was scattered all over the place. When I was 25 I started practising Odissi again. Immediately it made such a big difference in my life (I don’t just say it for publicity when I say Odissi has the power to change you from within- I mean it because I have exprienced it myself). It brought me into a focused state of being, and a lot of things changed in my life since then. The simple act of dancing Odissi has been the most spiritual experience for me.

So at the age of 25, I restarted practice while I was working simultaneously in a super fun job. But at the end of that one year of dedicated practice and seeing how it helped me- it was a very simple choice for me to make to quit my job and only do dance.
You do have the talent to pursue dance full time, and more importanly- you have the right mind set which you need to survive as a dancer. But I would suggest that you work for sometime and see.
So the best way to make the choice is when there is no choice. I would suggest that you wait for the day when it is not an either/or situation, when there is no doubt. When you know that you must only dance. Until then there are many fun jobs out there too!
Love
Ashwini”

Short Introduction to Odissi

Compiled by Sonakshi Gopi

Introduction

Odissi, also known as Orissi is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Odisha, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences. The  classic  manual  book  of Indian dances, Natya Shastra, refers to it as Odra-Magadhi. 1st century BCE bas-reliefs in the hills of Udaygiri (near Bhubaneshwar) testify to its antiquity.

Famous exponents of Odissi are guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Protima Bedi, Sonal Mansingh, etc.

Dance movements and music

It is distinguished from other dance forms by the importance it places upon the Tribhangi –  the movement of chin, chest and pelvis and upon the basic square stance known as Chauka or Chouka that symbolises Lord Jagannath. This dance is characterised by various Bhangas (Stance), which involves stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures.

Odissi was initially performed in the temples as a religious offering by the Maharis who dedicated their lives in the services of God.

Odissi dance is accompanied by Odissi music, a synthesis of four classes of music, i.e. Dhruvapada,ChitrapadaChitrakala and Panchal.

Costume and jewellery

The jewellery is made from intricate filigree silver called Tarakasi. The jewellery pieces are an important part of the female Odissi dancer’s costume. This jewellery includes Tahiya ,Seenthi , Mathami or Matha Patti , Allaka , Kapa, an ear chain, Jhumkas, a short necklace and a longer necklace with a hanging pendant, Bahichudi, a pair of Kankana (bangles) at the wrist, an elaborate belt and a pair of ankle bells The dancer’s palms and soles are painted with red coloured dye called the Alta.

The Saree worn by Odissi dancers are generally sambhalpuri and bomkai, coloured with bright shades of orange, purple, red or green.

(About the author: Sonakshi, all of eleven years, is a bubbly, enthusiastic student who has just started classes at ARPANA. The ARPANA blog hopes to receive more of her contributions and share in her dance-discoveries!)

 

 

 

Introduction to the Natyasastra: A Good Start!

Devina Wallang 26th June 2013. 10:20 a.m

India has a rich and diverse culture that reflects the wide facets of our heritage. An integral part of our heritage is the colourful and vibrant treasure of performing arts encompassing theatre, dance and music.
The Natyashastra, attributed to sage Bharata, defines most of the structure and terminology of Indian classical dance, classical music and theatre. In fact, the Natyashastra forms the basis of all movements for a variety of dance forms even across South East Asia (Reference: Karanas-Common dance codes of India and Indonesia by Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam).

Apart from being a source of ancient knowledge, how can learning the Natyasastra movements help?

Indian Classical Dance is characterized by the complexity of elaborate footwork which involves rhythmic footwork. The upper body is generally fluid and graceful while the arms, hands and the face of the dancer are always active expressing and gesturing events, ideas and emotions. The Natyashastra provides a firm foundation, to achieve grace and progress in Indian Classical Dance. Some advantages are briefly mentioned below:

Core Control and Precision – The core is the center of gravity from which all movements originate. Exercises and movements in the Natyashastra strengthen the core so it helps stabilizes the legs, mobilizing the bones, stretches the muscles, facilitates lifts and leaps, bending and adding grace to movements. Developing the core also aids in balance and coordination of the two halves of the body (the left side and the right side) and thus produces an artistic and perfect symmetry, essential for a good dancer.

Buoyancy and Agility – The Charis incorporate a number of animal related movements that are useful for developing a sense of buoyancy and improving the agility of the dancer. Indian Classical Dance pieces string together a variety of steps, which require great agility to switch from one movement to another without losing the essence of the story or the attention of the audience.

Health and Energy – Regular work on these body conditioning exercises will not only strengthen one physically and instill energy, but also enhance self awareness and psychological well being. Dancers become aware of their strengths and limitations and can consciously work towards enhancing what they are already good at and working on improving what they can be better in.

The Course: Introduction to the Natyasastra

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Thus, Arpana is organizing a three month course on “Introduction to the Natyashastra” so that trained dancers and inspiring dancers alike can explore this vocabulary in a positive, encouraging and committed environment. The course will cover the major Anga Bhedas (movements of the major limbs), Bhoo Charis and Aakash Charis (body conditioning using earth and sky levels). Apart from this dancers will also learn Hasta and Pada Bhedas( From the Abhinaya Darpana) and traditional Odissi body condioning exercises.
The course spans over three months (24 classes of one hour each) on weekends.

It is open to students of any age background. Not only is it a great way to introduce children to learning dance but also adults who feel that their bodies will not allow them to dance anymore will discover that this course will coax their bodies to dance!

Becoming a good dancer is not just about learning complicated steps and movements. It’s about understanding yourself, your body and developing confidence in your art and skills which comes with a good foundation in dance.