Tapping yoga for creativity

Vasundhara Doraswami.Photo: K.K.Najeeb   | Photo Credit: K.K. Najeeb

V asundhara Doraswamy is a danseuse par excellence, a versatile choreographer and a teacher of Bharatanatyam. Dr. Vasundhara's Doraswamy's who hails from Mysore, continues to be a phenomenon in the Indian classical dance scenario.Her artistry is the quintessence of the pristine purity of the much sought-after Pandanallur school of Bharatanatyam, which is further embellished by the nuances of yoga of which she is both a practitioner and guru. A regular invitee to the festivals of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi until a few years ago, She was the youngest recipient of the ‘Karnataka Kala Tilak' of the the prestigious award from the Karnataka Sangeetha Nrithya Akademi. Further, she was also the youngest member of the Akademi for two continuous terms.Recently in Thrissur for a performance, Dr. Vasundhara talked at length about her career that spans more than four decades.

From Kathakali to Bharatanatyam

As terpsichorean traits were strong in me even as a child, my mother, Varadalakshmi, used to make me do some items. When I was four years old, my father, P. Nagaraj, a landlord in Moodbidri near Mangalore, roped in guru Muralidhara Rao to teach me Kathakali. I remember performing ‘Poothana Moksha' those days. But it was guru Rajaratnam Pillai who initiated me into Bharatanatyam at the age of six. A former teacher of Kerala Kalamandalam, he stayed in our home and continued to teach me for years on end.

Turning to Yoga

Marriage to H.H. Doraswamy brought me to Mysore and I was thrown into the professional world of Bharatanatyam. He was an authority on both classical music and dance. His encouragement and guidance catapulted me to the national level of classical dances. It was at Dorai's behest that I took up yoga quite seriously. This was a turning point in my life. You know, as a child I used to imitate all the asasanas that my father used to do, never realising what they actually meant. But, as I grew up, I understood that most of the adavus, postures and karanas were essentially improvised yoga asanas. I wanted to delve deep into yoga for which I became a disciple of the great guru Pattabhi Jois of Mysore.

Bharatanatyam and yoga

Asanas and pranayama are two feats of the ‘Ashtanga Yoga.' The former are steady poses held for some time and therefore its efficacy in shaping the body posture is indescribable. That's why they are important in the formation of the adavus. For example, ‘Trikonasana' is basically the natta adavu or ‘theiyyam thi thei' adavu itself. Similarly, ‘Parswakonasana' is only an adaptation of Preritha adavu or Mandi adavu. In this connection, I must underscore the need for practising the Baddhakonasana by dancers, which is so beneficial for the aramandi, the basic stance in most classical dances of India.

My thesis for Ph.D is also Bharatanatya and yoga.

Improving creativity

There are numerous asanas that help dancers to be more creative. For example, Veerabhadrasana in delineating fish, peacock and so on, Laghuvajrasana for showing Koormavatara, Oordhadhanurasana for depicting the whole world, Udhdhithapadangushtasana for the Nataraja pose and so on. The possibility is practically infinite in choreography. Worth mentioning in this connection is my choreography of Soorya Namaskaram, the most operose feat in yoga, as a Bharatanatyam recital. This had fetched me the title of Natya Jyothi in the International Yoga Conference in Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago.

Martial arts

Martial arts are beneficial to dancers in developing flexibility of the body. I learnt Kalarippayattu in Vallabhatta School in Chavakkad for a few years. Here also I could discern that it abounds in yoga aasanas. In this connection I must add that there is a common thread running through all the performing arts of Indian origin and this is nothing but the traditional discipline of yoga. I am also a practitioner of Thang-ta, the martial art of Manipur.


Spiritual and secular choreographies apart, I have been successful in fusing folk fineries into the classical fabric of Bharatanatyam in many of my productions. My postgraduate degree is in folklore. ‘Panchali,' a Bharatanatyam piece, stands out for the Yakshagana music rendered by traditional Yakshagana musicians. I must be the only dancer to have choreographed Sama Veda in Bharatanatyam.

Training in dance and yoga

My institution in Mysore, Vasundhara Performing Arts Centre (VPAC) trains dancers in Bharatanatyam and yoga. We are celebrating the silver jubilee this year. I organise four festivals every year. They are ‘Chiguru Sanjay' for children below 15, ‘Pallavotsava' for up-and-coming dancers, ‘Natarajotsava' for male dancers and ‘Parangatotsava' for veterans.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 11:14:25 AM |

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