In perfect harmony...

home for dance The Shambhavi school incorporates  elements of art in the building design. photoS by the author

Constructing the Shambhavi School of Dance was the vision of actress, Kuchipudi dancer and guru Vyjayanthi Kashi. The result is a space that nurtures dance, an environment that encourages students to want to immerse themselves in the experience of dance and to excel at it. The architecture of the school helps facilitate this process.

Vyjayanthi’s passion for dance and her commitment to the project was infectious. So much so that the project became a collaboration of efforts from the members of Shambhavi’s dance community, architect and teacher Anitha Suseelan designed the school while another student’s father was the contractor for the project.

Open to ideas

The architect’s knowledge of dance made her sensitive to the requirements of the school. Anitha, who had designed several residences in the area, was enthusiastic about the challenge of designing the dance school on a small budget. Instead of enforcing an architect’s vision on the client, Anitha was receptive to Vyjayanthi’s ideas. Anitha recalls visiting built spaces that Vyjayanthi appreciated to understand Vyjayanthi’s aesthetic sensibilities. She did not replicate these spaces in the dance school but attempted to incorporate the essence of the spaces in her architecture.

Vyjayanthi combined her love for dance, art, artifacts and gardens in the project. The site contained several coconut trees apart from a small fruit orchard of chikoo and guava trees.

Anitha recollected that the trees were mapped and the building was designed and inserted amidst the trees such that all the existing trees were preserved. Vyjayanthi started the project, with a tiny budget and with the idea of building a single enclosure that would function as a performance and teaching hall. The 4,000 sq ft dance school which took two years to design and construct was built on a modest budget of Rs 40 lakh. The building process was participatory. The entire building process has been documented by Vyjayanthi’s student from Israel in a film called ‘A Home for Dance’.

A single 52’X72’ space functions as the dance studio and as an auditorium during performances.

The space consists of a stage and a green room. A curvilinear staircase and an upper bay containing a library and two rooms were added. Vyjayanthi mentions that difficult living conditions were something that she wished to change in the gurukula system of students pursuing dance under a dance guru. Students who come from various parts of India and abroad to learn dance for an extended period of time stay in these rooms.
Anitha mentions using a material palette that she perceived would suit the aesthetic sensibilities of the client.

Vyjayanthi’s exquisite collection of antique doors, artistic concrete panels and bronzes were incorporated into the design. The tactile qualities of the materials and the finishes used in the construction were an important consideration in adopting the material palette as was budgetary as well as climatic constraints.

Exposed brick and hollow terracotta blocks have been used for the walls. Floors are of polished green oxide. The sloping roof was originally clad with Mangalore tiles. The material palette augments the feeling of dancing within an environment that embraces the elements: rain, diffused light and vegetation. The process of construction of the school has been a learning process for both the architect and the client.

(The writer practises landscape architecture.)

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