Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013

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FROM TEMPLE TO ARENA

Photo: Ridwan Adid Rupon

Photo: Ridwan Adid Rupon

It takes a lot to be a dedicated artist, especially if you don’t have someone to guide you. Take it from someone who had to hone her skills and techniques through the help of internet and outside sources. I’m not saying I didn’t have any help at all; I wouldn’t have gotten this far without my gurus. But at the end of the day, you can’t just have the physical ability to dance and call yourself a “dedicated dancer”. Like everything else in life that you want to pursue, dance, along with every other art form, needs more theoretical knowledge than you know. I have been practicing Bharatanatyam for the past 10 years, and hoping to learn as much as I can, I had taken it upon myself to do so.
Bharatanatyam gets its name from four words combined together: bhava (expression), raaga (melody), taala (rhythm) and natyam (dance). Thus, Bharatanatyam is the dance that encompasses music, rhythm and expressional dance or abhinaya and strictly adheres to the “Natyashastra” (the scripture of classical Indian dance). It originated in South India and is the oldest of all classical Indian dance forms. Dance of the mind and soul, it is extremely traditional and is known for its grace, purity, tenderness, statuesque poses. It uplifts the dancer and the beholder to a higher level of spiritual consciousness. The dancer is considered as a worshiper of the Divine and an embodiment of beauty, charm and grace.
The art form has definitely gone through a lot of changes over the years. In olden days it was performed mostly by female artists — devadasi, who would perform at the temples. These devadasis were accomplished artists who would sing, dance and play many instruments. They were well versed in Sanskrit and other languages which helped them to interpret compositions which they would perform. But this tradition came to an end as the devadasis lost their position in the society. The dance then entered the royal courts. The artists, called rajanartaki, performed at the courts of kings who commissioned them. Bharatanatyam was later revived as a respectable form of art by the Tanjore brothers and then finally modified by Rukmini Devi Arundale, founder of Kalakshetra in Chennai.
Such a dance form, whether taken up as a hobby or profession, needs respect, faith in the arts and dedication. And to be able to have these, one must know Bharatanatyam from the core and by heart.
Every form of art needs perseverance, patience and love. Only then can one have a solid foundation that’s absolutely necessary for a thriving career. Let’s learn and achieve.

Naziba Basher is professional dancer, journalist, student, animal lover, cricket enthusiast, workaholic and dreamer.