'No dance should be looked down upon'

Classical dancer

Contemporary is something which is happening now. That way, every dance is contemporary,” says Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan referring to how she doesn’t understand the differentiation often created between classical and contemporary dances.

She adds, “No dance should be looked down upon. We are not doing what devadasis did 200 years ago.

The dance form of Bharatanatyam has evolved and is following contemporary patterns. Yet it maintains its vocabulary, which is special.”

Trained under the legendary dancer Yamini Krishnamurthy and renowned Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan, Rama took up dance full-time after her graduation from Delhi University.

“And, after getting married into a family of dancers, I didn’t have a choice, which was good, because dance requires sheer commitment,” says the danseuse who is known for her solo performances. 

In the run up to the first edition of Serendipity Arts Festival, an interdisciplinary arts festival to be held in Goa from December 16 – 23, Rama was recently in the capital as part of a residency programme where she mentored eight professional dancers. They will be performing an ensemble of three pieces — ‘naTyatra-journey to Bharatnatyam’, at the festival. “I have been teaching since so many years. But this is the first time I am getting dancers from jazz, ballet, Kathak, Odissi and Kalaralipayattu. That is a different experience for me as well as them,” she mentions. 

The artiste who has over four-decade long experience is trying to present a different take on Bharatanatyam.

Incorporating strengths of each dancer, the choreography seeks inspiration from ancient literature and traditions of the dance form. 

“The ideas, aesthetics and literature is all about this classical dance because I believe that it adds to all kinds of other dances,” says Rama, referring to incorporating ancient stories and philosophical metaphors in Bharatanatyam as part of the repertoire.

 Elaborating the training process, she says, “I can’t make them learn authentic moves of this dance form as it takes 10 years to learn it.

At the same time, they are professional dancers and their body is trained to dance.
I have used the strengths of each dancer in the production. If one dancer has learnt ballet, I know that he will be able to do the leaps and kicks very well. So, I gave him those kinds of movements.”

As a mentor, what has been her biggest challenge? “Abhinaya!” she quips, adding “too much importance is not given to expressions these days. Everything is depicted with the body.

So, I have been emphasising on usage of head, eyes and neck that makes it possible for us to communicate as much with the face as much as the body,” she says.

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