For mind, body and spirit

For mind, body and spirit

ON A MISSION

For mind, body and spirit

ANYTHING FOR ART: Years ago, Vyjayanthi gave her final B Com exams a miss to pursue dance and theatre!  DH pic by Manjunath M S

Her father, who was mesmerised by the beauty and talent of actress Vyjayanthi Mala, named his little princess Vyjayanthi. Born into a family with a rich cultural lineage, dusky and dimpled Vyjayanthi Kashi (49) is the grand daughter of the famous Kannada theatre personality, Dr Gubbi Veeranna. She is married to actor Vijay Kashi.

Her expertise in various dance forms and her mission to use dance as therapy for depression and disability are inspiring.

She began taking lessons in bharatanatyam at the age of six  under Guru Tumkur Ramanna, whom she fondly describes as her “mentor”. She gamely admits that it was her mother who insisted that she attend the classes. “I used to get angry that my play time was being traded for rigorous lessons. Little did I know that dance would become my destiny some day soon,” she says.

Art over academics
She recalls her earliest public performance — she was 11 years old then — and says former president V V Giri, who was present at the programme, gave her a gold chain in appreciation.

“For any child who wishes to pursue any art form, the first hurdle is the SSLC examination, since most parents disallow any kind of distraction from studies and text books,” reveals the dancer, who confesses that she “happily bunked” her final B Com examination to shoot for an art film!

However, the film industry left her “completely disillusioned” and she was sure that a career in films wasn’t what she wanted. It was theatre which fascinated her. “At sixteen, I was reading Kalidasa. I realised that theatre was more interactive. Observing my love for theatre, my father’s friend insisted I train in kuchipudi under Guru C K Acharyalu, who was an expert in creating the kouthvam or the peacock motif, using foot work. Bharatanatyam helped me learn the nuances of kuchipudi, a distinctively different dance form, effortlessly. I sensed and felt the drama in kuchipudi and was smitten by it,” she explains.

It was theatre that brought Vyjayanthi and Vijay Kashi together. “He hails from Shimoga. I could not have asked for a better partner. He has been very supportive of my creative pursuits, since he understands and appreciates the demands of the art so well,” she says.

Dance defines her
Balancing the demands of art and the demands of a job as a banker left her with very little time, but her dream of starting a dance school was growing bigger by the day.
 “After a programme in Hyderabad, organised by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, legendary gurus of kuchipudi such as Dr Vempati Chinna Satyam, Korada Narasimha Rao, Nataraja Ramakrishan, Chintha Ramanathan, Dr Satyanarayana Sarma and others, came to the green room to bless me. That was the turning point. I decided to focus on dance full-time from then onwards,”  she says.

She established the Shambhavi School of Dance in 1993, where she taught scores of talented youngsters, and choreographed performances like Navarasa or the Nine sentiments,  Ten Directions — Vedic chants, Women of India — The ultimate creation, Srishti — Creation of the universe, Janani Janma Bhoomischa — For our mother land, Natyashastra — The essence of dance, Kunti — The epic woman, Ambe — Tiny star of Mahabharatha, Saptapadi — The seven steps, Urvashi — Origin of dance, Yagna — The sacrifice, Stabdha — The silence, Bhavya Bhoomi — Tribute to India, Kshreesagara Mathana — Churning of the milky ocean, Ardhanareeshwara — Two energies creating balance, Basava Sandesha — A tribute to poet-philosopher Basavanna, Kuchipudi Vaibhavam — The grandeur of Kuchipudi.

Dance away your blues
She is also a pioneer in the field of Indian dance therapy and works with special children for whom she conducts workshops. “I use a combination of rhythm and movement since hand-eye-mind co-ordination is important,” she explains.

She plans to work with deaf and dumb children of RV School, Bangalore in June this year. In the UK she has worked with community clubs for the elderly, bringing them cheer in their twilight years.

“Abroad, I see a greater willingness to explore new forms of therapy to treat disability and depression. In Germany, for instance, I worked closely with women who were in acute depression in de-addiction centres. There is also ample support from the government in these countries. In India, we need to first address issues such as depression and disability openly. Only then, can we initiate meaningful work in these areas,” she says.

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