Anita Ratnam is as eclectic in her eating habits as in her performances
Anita Ratnam is a foodie. “I grew up a strict vegetarian,” Anita reveals, even as a platter of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian sushi announces her modified ways. Mealtimes were traditional back then. Rasam-saadam (rice with rasam), which customarily follows rice with sambar, was a must, she recounts. The message was to be adaptable, though. “Because my parents taught me, you have to learn to dine at any table,” she explains, adding, “Try to be a vegetarian in Japan!” So, “from dahi bhaat (curd rice) to kimchi to sushi,” she is ready for them all.
“I like thairu saadam,” she names the true blue South Indian curd rice speciality, “especially on the day of performance. But I like it warm, with a bit of extra chilli and lime pickle.” Many would agree it is the dish of choice to soothe pre-stage nerves.
While this return to alimentary custom may signify she is at heart the same young girl who learnt Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam and music while growing up in Chennai, her performances, in fact, could be said to reflect the eclectic changes that have expanded her diet. The alaripu-to-tillana format of the 20th Century Bharatanatyam solo repertoire, she discarded long ago. Her productions are a mix of poetry and music, movement and sculpture. Whether based on a number of movement vocabularies — such as “Seven Graces” on the Buddhist goddess Tara — or the Bharatanatyam technique — like the latest, “Faces…Blessed Unrest” that premiered this winter — they appeal to an audience beyond those schooled in classical dance.
Taking a tangent from the conversation towards the salad bar, she selects light fare. Balance, it seems, is the key.
As it is in her dance. “I always tell dancers Bharatanatyam is not enough. You have to cross-train,” she explains, pointing out that different muscles are put in use in the different dance forms. Running on the beach, for example is a workout a Bharatanatyam session may not provide.ANJANA RAJAN