Yamini Krishnamurti on the art of singing for dance
“Singing for dance is very different from singing on the concert platform,” says veteran classical dancer Yamini Krishnamurti. As an outstanding performer who toured the world with a live orchestra for decades, she has ample experience of generations of dance musicians.
“There is no point in making your own sangatis. Sangatis are done only to highlight the dance. Whatever the guru has created, that kind of sangati has to be created,” she says. Therefore, excellent singers that are lauded for the quality they bring to their accompaniment do not always meet with the approval of the feted artiste.
But in adhering to the requirements of the dance expression, she does not expect a singer to always repeat a particular singing pattern or order of sangatis (embellishments). However, the only way accompanying vocalists can maintain their creativity is to practise alongside the dancer. Musicians’ busy schedules no longer allow for several rehearsals before a programme. Since even three rehearsals with the orchestra are a luxury today for a dancer, forming a rapport — where the singer no longer has to consult the script to remember the lyrics and other requirements of the songs — is next to impossible.
“Some singers knew my thought process,” reminisces the dancer about her heyday when she was used to a regular orchestra ready to practise and create new works with her on a regular basis. “That kind of orchestra is very good — you will have freshness in your abhinaya. (For that) they have to be with me and understand the vibrations of my mind.”
By way of example, she says, “Akhila Krishnan knew my mind. There was a varnam I did in several places, and when I saw the recordings I saw I had done it differently every time.” This was possible because she had a good understanding with the vocalist, who could anticipate her mood and sing in a way that embellished it.
The veteran realises that today there are many reasons young dancers might opt for recorded music as accompaniment, but her sense of creativity balks at the idea. “The CD leads me. I may dance to it a few times but I get bored. On stage I lead the orchestra,” she admits, noting, “It’s my own problem. I’m not saying the CD is not important for the younger generation.”
People are doing successful performances using recorded music, but she finds a “great emptiness” in the method. Bringing to mind her own dramatic performances when audiences and orchestra alike would be at their seat’s edge observing her masterful interactions with her musicians, she laughs, “I want to make mistakes, I want to look daggers at them, and they suddenly sit up! I want a dialogue with the musicians!”