I dedicate this note to all Classical Dancers known and unknown.
Hope this finds you all in the zenith of whatever you all do!
Today i would like to share with you all my experiences and understanding of Indian Classical Dance from the knowledge given in the session taken by Dansuese Jayaprabha Menon at our institute, Niscort on Thursday, 5th March, 2008.
She is the Director of the International School of Dance.
Talking to students at the institute she gave knowledge on both the theoretical as well as practical aspects of the Indian classical dance forms.
She said that Indian Classical Dance is divided into two kinds: i.e., Tandava representing the masculine figure of Hindu deity, Shiva which goes down to levels of Shapta and Shapti denoting Positive and Negative and then comes the Lasya standing for the forms of dances as Mohiniattam, Odissi, Manipuri etc.
There are atleast 7 Classical dance forms. The joining of hands at the beginning of a performance is for the gods.
Whereas, Mudra is the expression through body. The swivelling of the right arm means joyous moments. The Lasya has three different ways of expression. In Mohiniattam, it comprises of circular movements, it has in it flow of movments without jerks.
She reportedly said that: " Dance is the medium of expression. "
Dances have regional flavour in them. The architecture in Tamil Nadu i.e., Tanjore and further down South Kerela, are evident in the movements of the dance-forms.
Mohiniattam comprises of gentle, curvature, circular forms of movements while Odissi features differ from that of Mohiniattam. Instead, the torso, neck and hip are treated as one in the latter.
The medium of expression in the Indian dance forms are the eyes and the body.
She alleged that: " It is one's personality, inner self that reflects in many art-forms."
She further stated that: Indian classical dance pertains to spirituality, lacking in the Western dance forms.
She claimed that there is enough potential in every art form to express the different concepts of life. The Lasya are the gentle forms in the Manipuri dance form. There are also the Agaras. The Rasas ought to be there in Hindustani music.
She informed that 80% of performing arts lies on the performer himself/herself.
She stated that the dancer has to communicate within the frame of the artwork.She claimed that facial expressions were lacking in the Western Dance forms.
There are overall 9 Rasas (Moods of human life) starting from: Shringara Rasas, Karuna Rasa, Ascharya Rasa, Veera Rasa, Bhaya Rasa, Hasya Rasa, Bibhakshya Rasa, Ghrina Rasa and Shant Rasa.
The 9 Rasas are not restricted to the pe5rforming stage only it is evident in one's everyday life.
Shringara Rasa is considered to be the most difficult rasa for it pertains to spiritual culmination.
After that comes the Haasya Rasa which is also difficult and depends on person to person besides rapport, vibration in the body itself as well as satisfaction of the dancer during the performance.
Energy and vibrations translates into a performer's prformance.She claimed that dance and art forms makes one experienced.
She alleged that any theme and concept can be conveyed through the different dance forms.
As far as the instruments are concerned in the different dance forms, Bharatnatyam requires Veena, Flute and Mridangam while Odissi requires Madhala.
She pointed towards the fact that all states have colloqiual slangs, accents belonging to regions and subregions. Music, from its part helps to identify the different dance forms distinctness. These can be comprehended by what she stated as the audio-awareness of the different dance-forms by the beat and sounds of the instruments involved.
Its visual aspect lies in the dresses involved for the performance as well as the different Mudras.
She reportedly said that it is not necessary to learn the language of dance in order to understand the dance-forms. Instead, it can be comprehended by the movements of the dancuesse on stage.
She alleged that classical dance contrary to popular belief was not limited to spiritual works but goes to the contemporary levels too.
Kalari, the ancient martial-arts form of Kerela is the basis of some classical dance . Chandya, Aasurvadya are the themes or moods available in these dance forms where the mood becomes strong, ferocious, vibrant.
Making these understood practically, she displayed on stage the theme as Raindrops. It was displayed with the expression of hands, face and eye movements etc.She drove home a point that these meant that the forms are not restricted to the text of Natya-Shastra.
She threw light on her vocation by stating that she was a specialist in Mohiniattam. Elucidating on the themes and concepts of the dance forms, she described what was known as Angika i.e. body-language.
She informed that through the dance forms, there can also be a lady shown walking with coupled with graceful-movements and shyness too. Whereas, shiva's masculinity is to be shown in a vibrant and stout manner with complementing gait and poise.
Likewise, an old man can also be depicted walking with a bent figure. Mrs. Menon added that the headgears which stood for the flowers as well as special fabric worn at the back of hair with it tied in different fashion in a particular dance are different. Same goes for the dresses. Lyrics of the music the dansuesse is performing to also differs from region to region.
She being specialised in the Mohinniattam form commented that the dance form takes its base from Hindustani Bhajans (Prayer-recitals of the Central part of the country).
She herself displayed on stage the different types of Shringara (Makeup and Grooming) Rasas ought to be executed by women of different age-groups.
Adding further she informed that 90% of the performances are complemented via expression of eyes as well as the Mudras (Movements).
The theoretical teaching from her part in the spectrum of classical dance ended with her informing the Niscortians that Classical Dance through its gradual growth from its regional form has only enrichened the main art forms of Indian Classical Dance.
Answering to Father Gerry's query about the dance forms' reach in contemporary age: She replied that one needs to breakout of stereotypical thought process which makes one to generalise anything.One needs to be all-embracing and not compartmentalise anything.
She tried to justify her stance by stating: " Cinematic - Dance needs basis which flows through the medium of Classical dance forms. "
She said that umpteen Western dancers, choreographers try and learn Kalari to achieve flexibility. As far as promoting the Classical art she stated that: "One needs to create awareness regarding the different dance forms."
Relating to Indian Culture, Traditions and Heritage she said that in Germany Sanskrit along with Indian culture is taught.
Mrs. Menon further added that: the music centering around each dance form draws its inspiration from the renderations of the age old Sages and Rishis who sang to the Shruti of the forests, river-side and which was attained by concentration.
With no worthwhile questions coming from the students side, she concluded the query-session by informing us, would-be communicators of respective mediums that the rhytm of tapping of the palm on the knee or lap denotes build up of speed by the performer of Dance form being executed.
Humans are complex beings in the sense that they through their constant persuasion and progress through ages have brought in front of themselves products of their mental-growth which is again never-ending - One such being Communication and the other Dance. The two comlement each other and pass messages subtly or in exxagerated, larger than life fashion.
Thank You all,
Flowers, Children, Music and Dance add much needed variety and colour to human life !
Cheers to all good things,