Words Of a Believer

Words Of a Believer

Words Of a Believer

It is a rare dancer who says what she enjoys most is upgrading her knowledge. It is this immersion in reading, reflecting and brainstorming that sculpts Anuradha Vikranth's dance philosophy, her teaching methods, and her visual interpretations. "Perhaps, my mother recognised this connection much earlier than I did," says Anuradha, who was 10 when she began learning bharatanatyam under Nirupama Rajendra. "My mom says I had so much energy and it had to be channelised into something fruitful."  

Channelised it certainly was. Anuradha discovered how utterly fulfilling learning dance and performing on stage could be. "It was dance, dance and dance throughout my teen years. I believe it also helped me academically – it gave me a sense of focus and forced me to be disciplined," she recalls.

At a crossroads

Today, Anuradha has gained recognition as a skilled bharatanatyam dancer known for her innovative choreography. Having completed her Ranga Pravesham at the age of 18, Anuradha continued her training with the veteran guru Narmada, who she says was largely responsible for broadening her vision, giving shape to her passion, and ultimately helping her when life gave her a choice - to climb the corporate ladder or to climb the stage.

"The truth is, for women, life is divided into 'before' and 'after' marriage – if my husband and his family had not supported me, I could never have chosen dance as a career however badly I wanted to," she says. And that's exactly what she advises her students too. "I find so many youngsters passionate about dance today - no doubt, dance requires a lot of commitment and dedication, but above all, one needs family support."

In fact, it was after Anuradha married Vikranth and moved to north Bengaluru that she started her dance school, Drishti Art Centre. A huge aesthetic space housing both an indoor and an outdoor studio, it started September 2001 with a handful of students, and today, Anuradha trains more than 300 students in the classical  dance form. Drishti celebrated 17 years this November with a two-hour performance by over 250 students of Anuradha at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall. "The last 17 years have been a great learning experience for me… but the recent inflow of energy into classical dance is something that has particularly gladdened me," she says.

Anuradha believes parents are realising that dance is not just about a few mudras and steps; it instils values, lets children know about their traditions and culture, and crucially, builds their confidence and teaches them focus and discipline. "Which is why there is so much keenness to learn nowadays; it makes me certain that our classical dances aren't going to disappear anytime soon!" she says.

Probably why Anuradha believes Indian classical dance forms don't need any forced experimentation to survive. "There could be tweaking of themes to talk about social issues, but our mythologies are so vast and deep that they are capable of imparting every life lesson," she believes.

Life lessons from mythologies

The dancer does exactly that in one of her productions,  Mahabharata - the Essence of Life. A project supported by the Arts Council, England, this production was at the UK recently.   "Every episode of Mahabharata imparts a lesson; that is how we structured this performance," she says. Beginning from Yudhisthira being crowned as king, it takes the flashback route to depict the Kauravas and Pandavas as children. "Even as young students, there was so much animosity between the cousins - their jealousy, the bullying, and the enormous peer pressure -aren't these the same issues kids nowadays face?" The production takes nuggets of their life and extrapolates them to today's situations, thus achieving what the artiste calls a "seamless contemporary feel."

In her recent production  Ekyam, she takes up the concept of Shiva as an upholder of familial values and Parvathi as a strong, independent woman. "Treating your wife as a woman with a mind of her own, imparting teachings to children, and being united - this is what the ekyam (unity) of Shiva and Parvathi is about," she says.

About her creative process, Anuradha says when there is a new production at hand, she first brainstorms with her students and mentors. Once the concept is in place, she formulates the choreography. "I approach the music after my choreography. That way, the vision and feel that I want can be translated on to the compositions perfectly."

But before she does all of this, she reads. And reads. "I am constantly trying to deepen my knowledge about  Natya Shastra, the origins of dance, and the path it has taken. I believe this is what keeps me rejuvenated and my choreography far from being jaded. It is this expanding of the self that's most satisfying."  

Indeed, who can deny that?

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