Sunday, October 21, 2007

One year of dance lessons

- by Deepa Krishnan

Today is Vijayadashami, the tenth day of the Dassera festival. This is the day on which every dancer seeks the blessings of his or her guru.
It is also traditionally the day on which new dancers are initiated into the art.

I began dance lessons last Vijayadashami, so it has now been a year of learning. I learnt dance as a child; therefore this is not entirely new to me...but in some ways it is harder, because I have to unlearn some of the earlier habits.

In the past year, I'v
e struggled with getting back into the rhythms and postures of classical dance. But the body is an amazing thing - when you push it, it responds. I can see myself improving, day by day. Now if only I could practice more regularly!

Here are some photos from today's Vijayadashami celebratio
ns. When I got to the venue, one of the senior dancers was just beginning to draw kolam at the doorstep.

She looked like she needed help, so I sat down to assist.

The pattern we drew is a traditional Tamil kolam. You start with a square (see the central one with four connecting lines?) and then you draw the extensions.

These were the tools we used:
- powdered red clay, to create the base
- white Cherry Blossom shoe shine, instead of the traditional rice powder or paste
- chalk to try out designs
- paint brushes, instead of using our hands the traditional way

The final design was not just beautiful and welcoming, but also auspicious. (We were pretty pleased with our efforts, even if we did cheat). For all you purists out there, if you want to see this sort of kolam done the traditional way, then here is a good link.

After the kolam, we went inside and joined the rest of the audience. Eventually, the hall filled up, with students and their parents. Here is one section of the hall. The girls in the front row were new, just starting their lesson today. Older girls distributed flowers, for the ritual offering to Lord Shiva that would mark the beginning of the event.

Here is my guru, Jayashree Rajagopalan, in a beautiful orange and green sari. She spoke to the parents about the Natya Shastra, the world's oldest codified treatise on the performing arts. The Natya Shastra is the root source of India's classical and folk dance forms.

The first part of the program was, of course, a prayer to the Great God Shiva, in his form as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. We offered flowers, bowed to him, and then began the performance.

I made several errors, Nataraja's grace notwithstanding. The guru was kind to me, offering encouraging words, and helping me get over the mortification.

(I still wince when I think about it. Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrrgh. I'll do better next year. I promise!)


Joy said...

Nice to know that you are able to go back what you started in childhood. I can understand " I have to unlearn some of the earlier habits.
". I used to learn Carnatic Violin as a kid. 2 years back I started it again and had to unlearn some of the old habits. I had to discontinue because of my pregnancy. Good luck with practise. For this, enough is never enough.

CanisLupus said...

super! Bharatnatyam, I presume ? Q for you. what's the essence of bharatnatyam ? "katha kahe so kathak" and from that 1 liner its easy to trace the genesis and evolution of the art form. for eg. does a bharatnatyam dancer evolve from "tayyari", to "layakari", to "khubsoorti" and then "nazaakat" ?

anju said...

nice kolam! remember the dance lessons you, roopa and i used to take? i remember the three of us dancing jattiswarams together. and going to antop hill for vijayadashami.