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Antarangam had Bharatanatyam dancer and critic Nandini Ramani shares her experiences of learning from Balasaraswati

Bridging the gap between performance and appreciation of dance form in the cultural circuit in Hyderabad, is Antarangam, a conversation series that features dance experts from across the country. Initiated by noted Kuchipudi dancer Anupama Kylash, the second edition of the series witnessed the presence of Bharatanatyam exponent, dance critic and academician Nandini Ramani, daughter of Sanskrit scholar V Raghavan and one of the foremost disciples of the legendary danseuse Balasaraswati.

Living up to the legacies of two doyens like Balasaraswati and V Raghavan in two different domains hasn’t been easy, Nandini Ramani confessed, “I did have a tough time facing two stalwarts in life. I was about five years when I began learning dance, while I was into Sanskrit theatre since I was nine. Apparently Bala akka instructed me to not make noise while I was in a cradle as well. Such was her influence on me.”

It was only in her teenage years that the lineage of the two dawned upon her and she realised she had to develop her own path of knowledge. What she definitely inherited was the value system and the command over the grammar of two diverse traditions, a knowledge she continues to impart to students till this day. In the course of her talk with Anupama Kylash, Nandini also spoke of the insights shared by nattuvanar K Ganesan and musician T Mukta in her learning years.

Discussing the predominance of body movements and nritta over bhava in the dance recitals of today, Nandini Ramani opined, “These aspects were something not known to us at all. We were just taught the padam structures, nuances of the repertoire, imbibing abhinaya. Every dancer wants to be an academic these days. One must experience the joy of keeping the body under their control initially and savour the joy of performing first. And it’s a dancer’s duty to elevate the standard of the audience.”

Some other topics that came up for discussion included the little knowledge of puranic tales among the contemporary lot and maintaining a fine balance between the theatrical and dance drama traditions. “Students should talk to experts and read books about ancient traditions. The consistency in the guru-shishya parampara too matters in times where students shift their loyalties from teacher to teacher regularly. Observing a teacher in performance and through their interactions is important,” Nandini said on a firm note. She reminisced about her experiences of performing complex dramas like ‘Aascharya Choodamani’ and ‘Swapna Vasavadattam’ while elaborating on the thin line that separates theatre from dance dramas.

Nandini Ramani’s presentation on varnam, “mother of manodharma”, saw her coming up with interesting observations, delineating the roots of its musical, literary structure and how the performance traditions had changed over the years. “The structure of the varnam evolves stage by stage and helps the dancer to explore the inner realms of thought process,” she added. Her perspective about the trikaala jati as something that forges a bond between the past, present and the future was certainly interesting.

The veteran stressing on the importance of laya during abhinaya also insisted that dancers learn music if the bhava were to emanate through their body. Nandini’s performances to the opening teermanam of the Mohamana varnam (in Bhairavi ragam), re-enactment of the words ‘bhoga tyagesa anubhogam seyya vaa’ (translating to eternal bliss) emphasised her attention to detail.

Through the evening, the dancer remained extremely critical of the dilution of the dancing traditions across the country. While Nandini Ramani’s knowledge about the form and anecdotes of the heydays of Balasaraswati left the audience overwhelmed, the sexagenarian could have done more to acknowledge the brighter side of modern-day developments in Bharatanatyam well.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 1:27:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/the-hindu-friday-review/article30413290.ece

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