ARPANA

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.