While Swarnamalya Ganesh’s interactive presentation traced the history of dance in the most artistic terms, Anita Ratnam’s workshop, ‘Muscle memory movement’ in dance was a true edutainment.
The workshop was both intellectually stirring and artistically alluring as expected from Ratnam. There was continuity, commitment (teacher and students) and credibility in the flow of new concepts generally unknown to many of us. The workshop was not just for dancers; its applicability stretched to all others who cared to imbibe what was being told and shown. The facets dealt with were actually simple, hence they escape our mind or we fail to notice them and assign the right importance in our everyday lives. For instance, Anita spoke about something as elementary as rhythm inherent in our bodies (like the heart beat), our daily chores, our gait, gestures and so on. And it is this rhythm that gets an artistic treatment in something as fine an art as dance. The references made were Western and Asian but essentially they could be attributed to the ageless Yoga, an integral part of Indian life from ages . Techniques from the West like spine neutral, imprint lying (on the back fully with knees up), the tai chi, butoh (Japanese choreography) were imparted in highly legible way that the students could imply it then and there. Ratnam shared very fascinating everyday facts like rural women, especially in southern India, weaving flower garlands almost mechanically with their hands while they are engrossed in casual conversation with their neighbours. The rhythmic movement of the hand in an autopilot mode and the natural output that comes out of them working on the flowers is what a dancer or for that matter anyone should observe. There are so many such instances like rural women of northern India walking gracefully with water pots balanced on their heads and waist as a part of their daily routine. The contraction and expansion of breath called moonlight – sunlight, often adopted in Western group choreography while dealing with cluster dancers keeps the core activated, preserving the spine of a dancer; the tai chi Yoga where one looks at a 45degree angle which ensures internalisation of the act prior to sharing it outward, the fast and slow tempos in measured footwork, the social conditions that spurned changes in art which is true of any society and country, creating movements with the help of imagery, the Indian sthira and sukham (e.g. flower weavers) image in which a lot more activities can be framed like the ritualistic puja in temples, handcrafting, handlooming were visualised through talk and demonstration through dance moves which was highly communicative and comprehensible to even a lay person.