I'm a dancer who's abhinaya and nritta is coloured by the cheeky character of Bangalore, says Charles Ma
Intense, demanding, tempestuous, mercurial, challenging, intoxicating, yet most often my solace, faith, comfort and strength. These are the few ways I would describe a lover with whom I have shared a passionate love-hate relationship for almost a decade.
At one moment I am the Swadheenapathika Nayika who says there is no equal to her lord, then the Khandita Nayika who is very angry, and then Kalahantarita Nayika who repents and feels great remorse for admonishing him.
Bharatanatyam has fortunately allowed me to experience and understand the many facets and dimensions of relationships and life.
After learning classical dance for a decade, I realise now that every dancer's journey is one he must take alone and that everyone has different paths to reach it. One evening, while chatting over coffee, a friend, a connoisseur of the arts, was greatly offended that I dared call a sacred art form like Bharatanatyam my lover. Little did I realise that when I was accidently initiated into the art form, how difficult it would be to pursue and truly love it in the context of a rapidly globalising city called Bangalore, a city that I call home.
Bharatanatyam is like a lover who demands generous love, constant attention, single-minded focus, commitment, hard work and most importantly a deepened spirituality.
Many a time I would be lured by the charms and sublime offerings of the city and would inadvertently take a so called ‘break' from my dance for which I later became hilariously synonymous with. I still constantly struggle between this dichotomy of a sacred art, born and nurtured in the temples of southern India and the milieu of a city that is probably the best paradigm of a truly globalising city. I grew up in a city where the mornings were filled with the calls of wild doves and the heady rhythm of woodpeckers, where I could cycle back from school and watch the sun set and live life's every small moment.
But times change and so did my city. Slowly but steadily I adapted to a new home because my city was never going to be the same again for better or worse. My city grew and I grew, my city changed and I changed and somewhere along this long journey, I became a dancer.
I am a dancer whose Abhinaya and Nritta is coloured by the evolution and cheeky character of Bangalore. My city gave me individualism and freedom to make Bharatanatyam my own.
Bharatanatyam to me is a celebration of life and all the beautiful things in it. And Bangalore celebrates that life. The beautiful life.
(Charles Ma is a Bharatnatyam dancer and teacher based in Bangalore.)