Dance

Spirit and style

Vaibhav Arekar   | Photo Credit: 19dfrVaibhavArekar

Dance shows in his mind, his face, his soul and in his majestic movements. His strong masculine style interprets, rather than imitating, natural qualities and not actions, by means of natural classical Bharatanatyam movements, gracefully. This is the well-known dynamic and intense Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, choreographer, producer, actor and administrator Vaibhav Arekar who stunned the audience at the recently concluded 20th Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Ceremony at Bhubaneswar with his marvellous Bharatanatyam performance. Trained with Saroja Srinath from the age of 10, he joined the Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai, to pursue dance as a career under the guidance of Thankamani Nagarajan and Dr. Kanak Rele. His theatre background with the late Chetan Datar and later the Avishkar group sharpened his abhinaya skills and his holistic approach to a performance — traditional, abstract and experimental in form and content — were polished with Rajeshree Shirke. He runs his own dance company Shankya. Here he shares his views on his style.

Your movements are mostly athletic. Was it intentional?

Yes, it is to develop a style.

So should you dance like a man?

I feel it is important because I agree to this impersonation that takes place that you can become a ‘nayika’ and then talk of the Paramatma but finally you are also looking at the society. The society has to accept. So in that perspective, I feel, they should feel that a man is dancing as a man. You won’t hear Bhimsen Joshi singing like a woman just because he sings a Meera Bhajan. So why should a man dance like a woman? I have done pieces like Tagore’s “Debotar Grash”, which is about a child and a mother — Kriya, Narmada Parikrama, where I was a woman, but people have come back to congratulate me.

How difficult is it to be a woman?

It comes automatically. We are regularly associated with too many women all the time. In my class I was alone, there were 11 girls. My teachers were women. Everywhere I look around, the dancers and admirers are women. Dr. Rele was very particular: “Vaibhav you take in every emotion. It doesn’t matter if you do a nayika, but the moment it finishes it’s not about the nayika. It’s about who you are — that impersonation, that becoming an act, gets the work. That should be the philosophy.”

Should there be a “Purush Ang” taught?

No, we have come out of it. Male dancers should be more discerning to know what they need to do, and so with female teachers teaching male bodies. They should make it a point that a male body looks masculine. There are movements which are masculine within the same adavu patterns that we have.

You can change the way it is executed and that is what I have worked with.

Is deconstruction of adavus necessary?

I think just understanding time-space concept is more than enough.

When I take a lyrical movement of time space within the same format of how I open my hands and close my hands in a particular adavu, if I change the intensity, I change the spacing of it, then it looks different.

Does “tandava” and “lasya” clash here?

No. See what I feel is that tandava and lasya are themselves concepts. The concept of “sukumara nritya” — it is not about just becoming a feminine dance. When it is lasya it is a very beautiful lyrical movement. The other is an energetic movement. I can be soft in my movements, lyrical or energetic in my movements and be masculine. The concept of masculinity is within the body which can be developed.

Also it should emanate from the time when you are practising, being with people, moving, walking outside, when you emote.

Are good looks important especially for male dancers?

No, I don’t think so. I find many of the dancers are very average looking but when they come on stage there is a glamour, there is something that the persona takes over; the charisma comes in. You can build that up.

Don’t you think some financial support is important for classical dancers?

Yes, I feel family support and some kind of financial background is, at least in the middleclass level, important for a classical dancer, because it’s not a lucrative field. It takes a little time. Bollywood is the in thing.

I also feel that classical dancers on the whole are not really doing much to change and reach out to make classical dance a contemporaneous art.

But I have to accept that it is changing.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 1:43:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/spirit-and-style/article6485089.ece

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