Friday Review

Boy brigade storms dance bastion

Himanshu

Himanshu  

A new crop of young male dancers take pride in learning and pursuing classical dance

The wheel has turned a full circle in the arena of classical dance. As the legend has it, dance (nritya) began with Lord Nataraja (Shiva) and in ancient times was practised and propagated by males as a divine art form. Somewhere down the lane, it passed on to female practitioners who held the bastion for decades thereafter shrinking the male artistes to a trickle. Barring a few predominantly male dance forms like Yakshagana /Bhagavata Mela or Kathakali, Mayurbhanj, the mainstream has become woman-centric. But now more and more boys are opting to learn, practise and live by dance.

A whole new crop of young male dancers have blossomed into ambrosial artistes defining the depths of classical Indian dance; they are a dedicated, determined lot who have passionately cultivated a life of their choice and have no regrets. Ample encouragement from parents and gurus has imbibed the courage of their conviction. For a few, social indictment was an initial barrier that they painstakingly crossed to carve a niche for themselves; for others it is a pleasant but arduous trek in learning dance and finally arriving! Most of them had performed in Delhi recently winning accolades. A peek into their journey:

Satyanarayana Raju, the senior-most in the brigade, an active performing artiste who has carved a niche for himself in Bangalore today says, “I hail from an agri-rich background with no roots in arts. Ours was one of those Telugu families (of Vizianagaram-AP) that had migrated to Bangalore decades ago and made it our home. My community definitely looked down (still do) upon dance as a vocation for a boy. I was totally taken over by K. Vishwanath’s movie Siri Siri Muvva at an impressionable age and went headlong into learning dance at16. My mother was the only person who supported me. . I quit studies and decided to become a full time dancer, now a teacher too! My only dearth in life is that my mother did not live to see me dance,” a wistful look spread across his eyes.

S. Vasudevan Iyengar is another senior who is at the opposite side of the spectrum. With highly supportive parents, he has given wings to his passion to dance and sing too. With a guru like Vyjayanthimala, Vasudevan’s performances are known for their classical purity and absolute adherence to rhythm. “I have my students too and I undertake nattuvangam for other artistes, given my dance and music abilities,” he says.

The sprightly youngsters who have garnered experience of at least two decades are a highly focussed lot with amazingly deep philosophical propensity, a rare phenomenon in present day youth. “Our dance is a spiritual art; it inserts in the process of learning an awakening of the inner core of our being. This keeps us grounded as well as perform with the Almighty in mind,” is their collective pronouncement.

Some of them like Anil Iyer and Mithun Shyam also display smart economic sense. “Escorting my sister to her dance classes ignited the urge in me to learn it myself. And my parents did not raise an objection to this. I have a commerce background and worked with an American company in Bangalore in night shifts so that I could devote my day time to pursuing dance. Now I’m into full time dance but I have judiciously invested my savings and structured my dance profession so that I should not suffer from lack of funds at any point of time. I run dance classes, do commissioned programmes myself. Though I’m an active performer, I’m yet to ‘emerge’ as a solo artiste. Boys dancing is no longer taboo; I have 25 boys in my dance school,” says Mithun Shyam, known for his creativity in improvisation.

For Anil Iyer, a qualified practising psychologist, it was his father who cheered him at every step to pursue dance. “He is not an artiste himself, but an aficionado who would never like to miss a performance of music or dance. I was exposed to so many programmes in childhood so the desire to dance is natural. I run a school ‘Shivoham’ apart from working in a university and my private practice- all of which help me run the financial show without a hitch,” he says. His guru Purnima Gururaj is a source of strength to this day, he avows.

Handsome, lithe Parshwanath Upadhaye is the most sought-after young dancer in Bangalore. A boy from Belgaum, whose mother put him in dance to compensate for the lack of a daughter in the family, Parshwanath never imagined he’d make dance a full-time vocation. “I came to Bangalore to appear for competitive examinations being a post-graduate in Kannada literature. But looking back I feel I wasted four years in academics when dance was to be my path of travel in life. I worked as a lecturer for sometime.I started dance classes and today I have a dance company with five main dancers –we collaborate and produce thematic works.” For the unassuming Odissi dancer Vishwanath Mangaraj, it is rather hereditary. His father Prasulla Kumar Mangaraj is a leading mardala (percussion) player for many a dancer. The young boy took to rhythm and dance like fish to water. Under Sharon Lowen’s able teaching, he is a replica of what Kelucharan would have been in his youth.

Multi-talented prodigy Himanshu Srivastava is a painter par excellence and a Bharatanatyam dancer who earns by his art and is highly philosophical. Only son of his parents who are not into art, Himanshu feels he is blessed to be born an artiste.

All these young artistes have not confined themsleves to their region; if foreign tours are testimonials, they have performed at some of the best festivals abroad and walked away with laurels.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 7:08:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Boy-brigade-storms-dance-bastion/article16076669.ece

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