The foundation of hard work and intellectual rigour has become flimsy, observes danseuse Malavika Sarukkai

If you have been floored by Malavika Sarukkai’s grace and passion on stage, you have to listen her talk -- her choice of words combined with her perfect beauty and intellect will leave you stunned. The beautiful dancer was invited by the alumni of Lady Shri Ram College Bangalore for a performance in the city. The Hindu

Malavika started dancing when she was 12-years-old. “When you internalise dance, harmony, beauty, aesthetics and rhythms, it makes you looks at the world differently. You are learning all the time. For instance, even now as I am talking I am absorbing the colour of the leaves around me, the light that falls on them, the way you are sitting etc. Dance makes you look at the world differently. When you dance holistically, it changes the way you live, the way you empathise and finally even your values. What you think is beautiful and the way you want to spend your time also changes. Dance as an experience sensitises you.”

She says that dance has been an experiential journey for her. “With my mother as my partner, I discovered the wonder of this art. For me dance has kept alive that childlike wonder. It also gives me a certain kind of bliss as I invest in it with my body, and my being with the spiritual. It gives the dancer a sense of ecstasy, which you will not find in the empirical world. That has been the greatest gift I have received from classical dance.”

Then she talks about how the concept of dance itself has changed with times. “Today, there is so much on the shelf for quick consumption. There is too much novelty without substance. What artistes are putting out is also changing today. Nothing comes easy. For the art itself to sustain we need something more enduring and the core of the art can be retained only when adaptations can happen in a positive way. Sadly, today the foundation of hard work and intellectual rigour has become flimsy.”

Technology has also invaded the world of the arts, where Skype and Youtube play a major role in training students overseas. But it’s not Malavika’s style.

“It’s not wrong. If one is far removed from the source and needs connection then technology is a plus. But art has to be learnt face-to-face, the authentic way – by listening and observing. With internet people are becoming uncomfortable facing each other or to even have a relationship. For me art is about relationships. It is relationship with space, with music, with time, aesthetics and finally with poetry. Here I am in a world of complex relationships through dance, which is lost when technology comes in.”

She adds: “Through technology, transference of art does not happen. The DVDs can teach you to imitate me but not imbibe art. You have to decide whether you will fill your plate in a buffet or choose a la carte menu. Dance is like rasa in food. You have to have the right ingredients, blend them well and let it go on slow cooking for that great taste. It’s the same with classical dance.”

Malavika explains that there are different stages in a dancer’s life – the student stage, the dancer stage, the teacher stage and finally the artiste stage. “The dancer-choreographer stage happens at the same time, so that role cannot be different from the other. I also enjoy the teaching stage as I love the concept of transference of art. I believe I am right now in the artiste stage, where one matures and finds a freedom where dance itself begins to speak to you. Now I am in a stage where I try to bring in a newness and freshness to dance, which has become a habit. I think more on how to bring in a newness to something I have learnt, practised and performed for years. Dance is not like buying a portrait and mounting it on the wall. It’s about an intangible enrichment when the artist is in a passionate flow on stage and that experience is what the audience takes back home. They have to believe in dance. I urge everyone to allow themselves the experience of classical dance. Because art unlocks the hidden hues in a person.”