Dance

A holistic approach to art

Kamakshi Jayaraman.  

“It was a few days before India got her independence. I had reached almost the end of my arangetram in the renowned Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Chennai. The tillana was so tiring that I refused to go on stage for the concluding piece. My master, guru Ramayya Pillai, coaxed me with a chocolate, put two garlands on me for the final item, left me on the stage and ordered the curtains to be opened. Once the orchestra started with ‘Aaduvome Palli Paduvome,’ I had to complete it but it was a wonderful feeling so close to independence”. “Ippidi Sollalama? Is it ok for the newspaper?” asked guru Kamakshi Jayaraman, rather innocently, as she began talking to me for an article.

‘Kamakshi Mami’ or just ‘Mami’, as she is fondly referred to, is one of the foremost disciples of the legendary Bharatanatyam guru Vazhuvoor Ramayya Pillai. A classical dancer, singer, veena player, a rare teacher and one of the deans of The Temple of Fine Arts International, are a few of the many feathers in her cap. She started dancing at the age of five , during times when there was still a stigma attached to pursuing dance. “I was lucky to have a family who encouraged me to learn fine arts comprehensively. Playing the veena and learning music from Madras University allowed me to approach the art form holistically,” says guru Kamakshi Jayaraman.

Few years after her arangetram, she applied for the coveted Government of India scholarship with her master’s guidance. “In fact it was my neighbour who showed the newspaper and told me that I had been selected for it,” she laughs.

Guru Kamakshi Jayaraman formally began teaching classical dance in Vidhyodaya Academy, Chennai. She recalls teaching ‘Senthamizh Naadennum’ to one of her first students who did not know Tamil. “My master presided over the arangetram of my first student in Iyal Isai Nadaga Mandram and praised my work. He compared my devotion to him, to that of Ekalavya’s,” she reminisces.

Her memories of guru Ramayya Pillai are cherished and often shared with her students. “My master used to lovingly call me Kutti Kamu,” she says and chuckles like a 10-year-old. “He would ask me to demonstrate exercises and sometimes even teach classes in his absence.

Consistent practice every morning was insisted. He would rarely pass a comment, particularly if a student is good,” she shares.

The Vazhuvoor bani

The Vazhuvoorar bani from the village Vazhivoor, in beautiful Thanjavur, is as unique as it is reputed. The technique is graceful, punctuated by picturesque poses to complement the karvais (gaps) in the jati, which creates both thrill and respite at the same time, for both the performer and the audience alike. One cannot ignore these elements in guru Kamakshi Jayaraman’s brilliant original pieces of choreography. She adheres to the mould of Vazhuvoorar bani, however, she has grown out of its binding.

“A few years after my marriage, when I was teaching in Chennai, came a magical phase in my life. A friend introduced me to Swami Santhananda Saraswathi, Swamiji, as we call Him, and I agreed to teach at The Temple of Fine Arts (TFA), Singapore, in 1984 and later moved to TFA, Coimbatore, in 1996. Divine grace made the last 25 years a journey that cannot be described with mere words. The mission of the institution, ‘Art, just for the love of it,’ became my purpose of teaching dance”, she smiles.

Choreographing, teaching and recording for many of TFA’s international productions created a platform for her to share ideas with teachers and experts from various backgrounds. She emphasises that it also taught the importance of working together as a team, without any ego.

Guru Kamakshi Jayaraman plays way more than the role of a teacher to her students, who continue to keep coming to her from different parts of the world, to enjoy the precious experience of learning from her.

No book can one quite compare to her over 50 years of experience in dance, music, choreography and teaching. She would know almost instinctively when a Mandi Adavu (a floor sequence) made sense and when a subtle Attami (a neck movement) would suffice. Be it a little girl, a teenager or an adult, she would know how to wheedle her way through and make the student fall in love with the class. ‘Vidhya Dadaathi Vinayam’ is the adage that comes to mind when she humbly owes it to her gurus for making her life purposeful.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 10:33:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/A-holistic-approach-to-art/article14968548.ece

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