‘Each allows me to traverse diverse landscapes’

Meenakshi Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: H Vibhu

“Meenakshi Srinivasan is a sensitive, sincere dancer, detailed to a T, just like her guru-mentor Alarmel Valli... Here is a dancer with poise and prose. She is likely to go far with her art and even be the next big thing in Bharatanatyam, for, like her guru, she seeks beauty in dance and perfection. Here is a complete artiste.” Thus predicted Ashish Mohan Kokkar, the well-known culture critic and dance historian, some years ago – a prediction that has proved true and is apparent to followers and fans of dance.

In Thiruvananthapuram recently to perform at the Soorya Festival, Meenakshi spoke about her work, the influences and her career.

How did you get introduced to dance? What would you consider as your formative influences?

I trained in Bharatanatyam, encouraged by my mother. The arts genes are definitely present in the family. Two of my aunts and my mother have learnt classical dance. My mother, Nirmala Srinivasan, was the first girl to perform Ottanthulal, at the tender age of 10. Lakshmi Krishnamurthy, my aunt and Malayalam screen’s beloved muthassi, was a versatile artiste.

Meenakshi Srinivasan

Meenakshi Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: Hareesh N Nampoothiri

My mother was largely the driving force for my dance. To this day, she helps me with abhinaya. She has a keen eye for expression and has the ability to bring out subtle nuances — similar to subtexts in poetry. Incidentally, I must mention that she had given a notable performance in MT Vasudevan Nair’s movie Oru Cherupunchiri.

In what ways have your gurus impacted you?

I was fortunate to have had a good foundation in the art, being trained by Alarmel Valli, one of the foremost practitioners of Bharatanatyam. I had my debut performance (the Arangetram) under her.

Valli akka is a mentor, a mother, a friend and a constant inspiration to me. I believe that the core values I carry in my dance are those that I learnt from Valli akka. Those values are the basis of all my work and will always be. Along the way, I have been blessed with the generosity and guidance of many great artistes, for which I am ever grateful.

You are also a qualified and practising architect... Have these two helped each other in any way?

I am fortunate that dance and architecture have co-existed in my life for a while. They both require an approach from a creative and a conceptual perspective and each has its own demands of perfection, dedication and commitment. To me, both dance and architecture explore form through the physical, intellectual and spiritual space. Each allows me to traverse diverse landscapes, as it were, widening my exposure or opportunity for new experiences. At this stage, it is these experiences that become the source of learning and inspiration.

You have performed extensively, in many parts of the world, at festivals and prestigious venues. Can you tell us about your engagements with the audiences? What is your experience, performing in Kerala?

For me the purpose, each time I dance, is to create an experience — an experience that is pure, real and lasting. I do enjoy performing in Europe, especially in Paris. They are ardent followers of the art and know and appreciate the nuances of it.

Bharatanatyam dancer Meenakshi Srinivasan

Bharatanatyam dancer Meenakshi Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: S Ramesh Kurup

Kerala being culturally so rich, just being in Kerala is special to me. I feel enriched! What is distinctive about audiences in Kerala is their patience! They understand that art cannot be hurried.

Can you tell us something about your work as a choreographer?

Many a time, one would find an artiste being described as a dancer and choreographer. I would say, however, that an experienced or complete dancer is also a choreographer, there really is no dividing line. The idea of choreographer is actually a Western concept. In the Indian tradition, whether in dance or music, manodharmam, creativeness and improvisation are integral aspects. Thus choreography blends seamlessly into the psyche of a dancer. I would just call myself a dancer.

My endeavour in all my work is to be driven by my core values — honesty, clarity and conviction in thought and execution, sensitivity to detail and complete respect to grammar and technique to achieve beauty.

Your support system?

My family and friends wholly respect the place that dance has in my life. They are also very proud of me. My family is a huge support and is always there to hold my hand when I need it!

Through your chosen medium of dance, what is it that you would like to convey to the world?

I would like to say that Nature is our closest connect to anything larger than ourselves! Love her, respect her, nurture her, do all that you can to care for her, and become one with her.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 1:27:28 AM |

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