New steps, old language

Savitha Sastry’s choreography in Soul Cages strips the traditional Bharatanatya performance of lyrics, to keep a universal appeal

Savitha Sastry looks every inch a dancer. She is beautiful, has lovely large eyes and sits very erect when she speaks to you. That's not all, her every response is accompanied with a perfect hand gesture and expression. Savitha was in the city to present her solo piece “Soul Cages”.

Born in Chennai, this stunning dancer was brought up in Mumbai, took to Bharatanatya and has travelled the world with her dance. She started dancing at the age of seven. Having started her training in Mumbai under the tutelage of Mahalingam Pillai, who was into the Tanjavur style of Bharatanatya, she later shifted to teachers like V.P. Dhannajayan and Adyar K. Laxman, who practise the Kalakshetra style, which is “close to her heart”.

Why so? “Because, when you move from one teacher to another, you imbibe their techniques and style. Since my latter teachers were from the Kalakshetra style, I too continued in it.”

About creativity in the classical dance style, Savitha says: “Creativity in Bharatanatya comes from learning within the box. The movements are not regimented. You spend years learning a technique, which becomes for you a medium through which you can speak. That is the point when the creative aspect comes in.”

Savitha, who is totally in love with Bharatanatya, says: “The beauty of this dance form is that it has allowed itself to become a medium for conveying human emotions. Even the form has come a long way ever since its inception. Today's Bharatanatya is very different from what it was. Perhaps we would lose our audience if we performed the dance as it was done a thousand years ago. Today, there are changes, though we narrate the same stories from our mythology.”

Then she goes on to explain about her choreography, “Soul Cages”, where she says that she has used only the medium of Bharatanatya to narrate her story. “It's about a little girl who has moved from the earth to heaven and comes face to face with the king of death, who is extremely fierce and feared. This piece talks about the bond between the two.”

The specialty of this choreography, she adds, is that there are no lyrics. “That's because dance has to be universal and has to appeal to all. In this piece, though I have used the narrative beauty of Bharatanatya, I have stripped it of all its shackles – in the sense that it need not only be rooted in the Devadasi system and be performed for a select audience. It is created in such a way that anyone from any corner of the world can comprehend the meaning and can relate to the piece.”

Though Savitha prefers to dance to a live orchestra, she says that for “Soul Cages” she performs to a recorded music. Savitha is open to choreographing but she says that she will stick to the medium of Bharatanatya because “I already have a medium here. It's beautiful and can communicate all that I want to. Whereas in contemporary, I have to evolve a new medium.”

About life in Delhi, she says, that it is more like Bangalore, where the city has allowed her to step out and not be pegged into a particular mould, but the audience is as receptive to any creative work.

How would she react to a critical review, for many artistes are not open to criticism. “My task is to take my art to the audience. Sometimes we also have a Q & A session after the show. Gone are the days when a dancer was called the ‘Dancing goddess'. These are the days when you reign only when you are able to communicate and hold the audience' attention. And I am open to positive criticism.”

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 7:49:38 AM |

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