Dance

His best foot forward

Bharatanatyam dancer S. Vasudevan.  

HYDERABAD: We hardly come across a young male dancer, a classicist who has so far had a smooth, successful sail. He is cheerful, full of gusto and raring to go. Meet S.Vasudevan, a Bharatanatyam dancer, Carnatic musician, doctorate, all rolled into one. A chiselled countenance carefully crafted into a tall physique, there’s nothing obvious to call him an artiste — no gestures, no gait, no long mane or other such superfluous embellishments that generally set dancers/musicians apart. The only visible sign of being a south Indian in a north Indian milieu, is his tilak ( namam), a fine vertical line in the centre of his forehead!

An intense dancer with a zeal to put his best foot forward if his performances are anything to go by, Vasudevan is an equally mesmerising musician, a Carnatic vocalist who can sing and dance simultaneously without a trace of breathlessness! There is not an iota of despair as he speaks about his first love and choice of career, viz. dance, where solo performances are not easy to come by. “I loved dance ever since I was born, I guess,” he says with a laugh. “I was trying to imbibe dance from the age of three; not the child-like movements but classical dance steps. I’m sure I wanted to be a dancer right from then. And it is my mother Kamala Srinivasan who encouraged me throughout, even to date.”

Who could be the guru of such an impeccable dancer? “None other than the renowned, glamorous Vyjayanthimala Bali,” his eyes twinkle. “But at my age then, I hadn’t the foggiest notion of her film fame. So her larger-than-life image didn’t scare me. But yes, her training was grilling; pupils would enrol and leave within a month. Her dance was discipline. She was residing in Delhi when she was Member of Parliament and wanted selective teaching through an audition test which I took, thanks to my aunt and got selected. My guru’s chastity with Natya dharma is unparalleled. She would dance the same Varna in six places and no two places would be the same. I have yet to see as many Shiva hasthas as the myriad ones she could emulate. It was not about the quantity of items learnt, it was quality and what I imbibed from her is the philosophy of dance. My quest found its fulfilment in her teaching,” the veneration in his tone is so noticeable. Her teaching methodology was in line with the old masters. Not a line of theory, not even oral rendition of hasta mudras as they are taught nowadays. “The post-performance tips and discussion as she relaxed on her table-top swing were the real lessons on dance which I imbibed as theory. With this eligibility she moulded me into a choreographer,” he adds.

Vasudevan later explored diverse dance forms like Kathakali and Chhau while he post-graduated in Carnatic music simultaneously. “My foundation in music was laid by my mother’s guru Madurai R Ramabhadran in Delhi,” he says. His doctoral research in music was also pertaining to dance, his first love. He worked with Doordarshan archives as subject expert, holds a number of lec-dems and has a handful of students. “I have no frustrations about the number of performances I do; no financial stress; only the passion to take dance forward and establish it as unique aspect of our tradition,” he sates candidly, with no trace of malice or pride. As long as youngsters like Vasudevan are around there is no fear of losing out on purity of classical dance.


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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 8:54:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/His-best-foot-forward/article14380360.ece

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