Chat Bharatnatyam dancer Mythili Prakash says each performance requires intense engagement
Dressed in a traditional white salwar kameez, her long hair left loose, the graceful Mythili Prakash speaks of the time when the idea of dance as an offering struck her. “Earlier, performances were stressful. I was nervous about making dance a full time career. But after a performance in a temple, I wondered why can’t dance always be an offering? Why can’t it always be this way? That was a beginning of a journey and from there things began to change.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mythili is a well-known Bharatnatya dancer. She has performed at Art Institutes in India and at prestigious venues and festivals from the UK and France to Singapore and Canada. She doesn’t rest on her laurels, though.
“Every performance requires constant striving. It’s not easy to remain in the present. It’s like threading a needle at every moment. It’s not an easy goal to reach. The rare moments a performer achieves this are truly rewarding.”
Mythili performed in a recital titled Aikya , which was based on the life of mystic Akka Mahadevi. “There was a seminar in Chennai on women mystics. From among the mystics we were asked to choose, I chose Akka Mahadevi. It felt natural to do so. She believed the absolute is within one’s heart. Each of us has the same potential as the mystics.”
Tracing the origin of Bharatnatya, Mythili says, “It began as a temple ritual by the Devadasis, later moved to the courts as a patronage system, disappeared for a while and today is performed on stage.” She adds that even though Bharatnatya has a specific grammar and technique, it has evolved over the years.
Mythili, a graduate in Mass Communication from The University of California, Berkeley, says that writing takes up some of her time too. “In the US, we have to write proposals articulating our ideas for grants.” She is also well versed in Carnatic vocal music and also studied Modern Dance in high school. “I learned a lot about body awareness while learning Modern dance. When you learn a particular dance form as a child, your body subconsciously adapts to it. A new style re-energises your body and the way you move.”
Mythili’s special appearance in the Ang Lee-directed Life Of Pi was an enriching experience for her. “I spent time behind the scenes and it was very interesting to see how the director worked.”
Mythili’s upcoming projects are a collaboration with theatre director Gowri Ramnarayan and Svyatantrya with sitar artiste Anoushka Shankar, among others. “ Svyatantrya will be a contemporary dance performance based on the concept of balance between the inner and the outer. We look at this balance through the idea of breath. It will have a contemporary dancer, me, Anoushka and a small ensemble of musicians.”
Every performance requires constant striving. It’s not easy to remain in the present. It’s like threading a needle at every moment