The Dhananjayan’s natya school in the U.S. has crossed a milestone.
“Almost heaven, West Virginia/ Blue ridge mountains.....Country roads take me home...” John Denver’s voice comes floating…
So many years have gone by since V.P. Dhananjayan left his dance home, Kalakshetra. The separation has only been physical since he has remained a true alumnus, his work always reflecting the spirit of the institution founded by Rukmini Devi Arundale. And it is said, the Universe always answers the true call of a kindred soul. In 1988, when he visited the Yogaville campus of Swami Sachidanandaswamy and he was asked to conduct workshops, the Dhananjayans thought of the Gurukulam concept; in short, they wanted to share with the others what they had experienced in their dear Kalakshetra.
Akin to a gurukulam
The Dhananjayans disliked the use of the term workshop and preferred to chalk out a gurukulam plan, which would be new to the students in the U.S., and they could understand the concept only through by experience. Swamiji loved the idea and so every year the Dhananjayans have been reliving and recreating the spirit of their alma mater. The idea behind this camp called “Natya adhyayana gurukulam “was not just teaching varnams and padams, but helping the students understand the greatness of the art in a holistic manner.
The day begins with prayers and yoga classes, followed by training and rigorous practice of the techniques of dance, which develops their stamina and perfection of physical movements. The latter half of the day is devoted to exploring aspects of abhinaya, inter disciplinary sessions in allied arts, music lessons discussions and debates. The experience of living away from the comfort zone of their homes in an environment sans television and telephone, shapes the learners into full-fledged artists. They imbibe the spirit of sharing and caring and discipline comes without force.
The camp became popular among parents, teachers and young people, who enrolled. A trend had begun with more such camps being started.
The success of any project cannot happen without team work. The Yogaville community was the inspiration providing immense support. The passion and commitment provided by volunteers – students and their families proved to be invaluable. The meticulous attention to detail in planning and managing the everyday affairs by Rukmini Rasiah and her daughter, Padmarani Rasiah-Cantu, helped in ensuring the smooth running of the gurukulam. “Living with these student-children, sharing not just the technicalities of the art, but playing many roles - as parents, teachers, even counsellors at times, we are able to understand their fears which they slowly voice out to us, which endears them to us... for it is trust, simple and straight. It is a bonding which has seen the test of time – 25 years... and this brings a sense of fulfilment,” say the Dhananjayans.
This article has been corrected for a factual error.