Art

Dancing for humanity

Nancy Sahu is on a mission to preserve and promote Rabindranatyam, a dance form created by Rabindranath Tagore

Nancy Sahu uses dance to make a powerful statement about current issues. Particularly moving was one of her performances where she portrayed the pain and grief of families who lost their dear ones in the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir. The sense of hopelessness and helplessness shone through in her ballet she presented in Rabindranatyam.

The dance form, explains Nancy, allowed her to express the denial, loss and anger of the widows and other survivors at the recital. She explains how, “the four main constituents of Rabindranatyam Angika (body language), Vachika (song, recitation, music and rhythm), Aharya (stage-setting, costume, make up, jewellery) and Sattvika (the performer’s emotional connection with the story and audience are different from other dance forms.” Rabindranatyam also deifies the elements of nature, she adds.

Nancy says she finds Rabindranatyam the perfect medium to promote peace and harmony, humanity and equality. In her many national and international shows, she has danced to contemporary themes like women empowerment, conservation of the environment and, so on. “Rabindranath Tagore created this novel classical dance based on the folk dances of Bengal and hence, the footwork is extensive. Abhinaya is predominant in Rabindranatyam,” says the 27-year-old IT professional from Delhi who was in city for a dance recital called Vatan (Motherland). She won extra fans because she danced despite a torn ligament. “My doctor asked me to go to a surgeon, I came here to perform,” she chuckles. Nancy performs regularly in programmes organised by Delhi Tourism, at the Delhi International Art Festival, India International Dance Festival, and other national and international events.

It was her mother who chose this dance form for her, says Nancy who juggles a corporte job, her performances as well as a dance school she set up for underprivileged children in Delhi, called Vasundhara Kala Academy. Her mother who was herself not encouraged to learn dance, made sure her daughter had that chance. She hunted high and low for a teacher and finally chose the Delhi Ballet Group, run by Guru Valmiki Banjerjee, who was the founder director of the dance school (1954) and a research scholar on Rabindranatyam.

Her Guru, quickly recognising the young Nancy’s ability encouraged her to give perfomances (she recollects a recital in Goa where she saw Pandit Birju Maharaj). Even when she was only 16 years old, he enrusted her with the task of conducting a workshop in Mysore. All this was a huge impetus to Nancy’s confidence.

She recollectsa performance of hers on Rabindra Jayanti in 2016. “Minutes before the show, Guruji called me and said ‘Dance today as if this is your last performance’. And I danced like a possessed soul.” She was overwhelmed to see her Guruji’s eyes welling up.

Nancy is collaborating with local schools in Delhi to teach their students Tagore’s Ekla chalo re. “There is a bigger project after that,” she smiles. “But I don’t want to divulge the details now.”

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 7:58:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/dancing-for-humanity/article30835933.ece

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