Through dance one celebrates and cerebrates the body and mind! Dance lives in the moment of creation, renewing itself even as it brings alive tradition and continuity, says Malavika Sarukkai
To dance is to sing with the body, paint with the body, sculpt with the body.
Through dance one celebrates and cerebrates the body and mind! Dance lives in the moment of creation, renewing itself even as it brings alive tradition and continuity.
I write this piece to share with readers the inner world of the artist as she makes dance art. These are moments that reflect an inner harmony and balance, and a finely tuned aesthetics with alignment to space and time.
Like a river that makes fertile the landscape over which it flows, the river of Bharatanatyam too has enriched and continues to enrich our culture and our lives. In the process, it gives us the possibility of drinking of its waters of poetry, aesthetics and momentary transcendence.
This river is a language of dance that holds within it tradition and change, structure and freedom; this is a river that offers immense potential. Hence, tradition need not be represented by an inherited repertoire alone or by a static concept. Instead, I believe innovation in tradition is represented by a repertoire which uses the essentials of classical dance vocabulary, to emphasise aesthetics, stylisation, appropriatness, poetry, music, philosophy and rasa. All this allows for creative improvisations.
For the Indian classical dancer, the need to evoke rasa, a heightened awareness, is of primary importance. This underlying concept influences all levels of performance and presentation. It is this unique quality that transforms the physical body even as it celebrates it. It is this quality of rasa that transforms dance from mere performancetoexperience. Krishna Chaitanya points out that Abhinava Gupta uses the word anukeertanam rather than anukaranam: when he says, “art does not imitate the forms which are the end products of nature’s activity but imitates that creative activity itself.”
As a serious dancer choreographer who needs to connect with dance at a deeper level, my concern is on engaging with tradition and continuity. Further for me, classical dance is the creating of aesthetic design through the involvement of body and mind, and in alignment with space and time. For instance, as in classical music, the singer aligns the musical notes to the sruti of the tambura, in my vision of dance, I feel the dancer-artist must align the dynamics of body movement to both space and time, silence and sound. In doing so, she generates an energy field of sustained harmony and aesthetics in the space around her.
I think for a classical dance choreographer the aesthetics of form is a profound question. It concerns the movement of the body in space and holds true both for nritta and abhinaya. At one level, it is grammar, technique, and interpretation of the style and at another it is the quality of dance energy that fills the body’s membrane. Therefore, one is constantly and simultaneously working at the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels. For the dancer, her body is her medium. Through a process of deep internalisation, she works at aligning body and mind so that her body becomes the vessel which holds the waters of tradition and renewal. It thus becomes a temporary container, energised during performance experience. In the performative arts the body is the site. The dancer’s body therefore becomes the site invested with heritage — sacred and transient.
I believe for the classical dancer, the body can be more than a physical entity. When sattvik dance energy flows uninterrupted through the being of the dancer, it is as if she is lit from within, lit with another luminosity. And it is this energy charge, this luminosity that one searches for, to take classical dance from being performance to experience.
I cannot stress enough the importance of such art experience for we live in a world which is noisy, crowded and fragmented, which however has become a part of each one of us. Our senses are constantly brutalised by the violence and terror we see, and feel disenchanted. But I wonder, should we allow ourselves to be desensitised by this world around us? I believe art experience counters such brutalisation for it renews us as we dip into sacred waters time and again.Isin’t it especially necessary then to validate the beauty of spirit and the inner core that also exists in us?
Website: www.malavikasarukkai.com; E-mail: email@example.com