For this year’s annual day, the students of Matangi Nrithyakshetra wished to present something that resonated with them deeply. So the Director, Matangi Prasan asked them to write their own short stories last summer. “Most of the stories they wrote were dreamy and heroic. So the presentations on stage should also reflect these themes and sentiments,” felt Matangi, as their dance teacher.
They then talked about ‘heroism and women’ and how it is represented in their history textbooks. ‘What kind of qualities are traditionally attributed to women characters in Bharatanatyam?’ was another question they discussed. “By revisiting the tales of warrior women of Karnataka, my students, instead of feeling proud, were really disturbed. They had problems with the way these stories were being told and the negligence in recording stories of women in general. The Forgotten Battles, a production by senior batch of students is an attempt in this regard,” says Matangi.
“The textbooks presented these warrior women as if they were destined to achieve it. But how did they rise to the occasion? The journey of becoming extraordinary from ordinary is what resonates with women of all times. We wanted to explore that part,” she explains. But finding texts that chronicled these kind of narratives was the most challenging. Finally, they came across books by Archana Garodia Gupta and Yugal Joshi on warrior women of India.
- “Not Just Another Bharatanatyam Showcase” will be on February 1, 6 p.m. at Bangalore International Centre. The show is conceptualised and directed by danseuse Matangi Prasan and the music is composed by veena artiste, Y.G. Srilatha.
- Children’s author, Roopa Pai and theatre personality, Sharanya Ramprakash will be the chief guests of the programme.
In dance class, the younger children discussed from photosynthesis to animal tales to Amazon fires. “I wanted to see how they could present the same through Bharatanatyam. This made them try different movements for describing phenomena they studied in their science and environmental classes. This was truly educative for me as the children had to teach me scientific concepts from step one,” quips Matangi.
They would bring their science textbooks to dance class, read and discuss with the group what they wanted to try out. “Everyday they would come up with newer ways of explaining it, till we finalised on one,” she adds. This production will be presented by children between the age of nine and 14 and is named — ‘Science meets the Arts’.
Children between the age of five and eight read not only from Panchatantra , they were also aware of the wildfires in the Amazon and Australian forests. “What would these animals from Panchatantra discuss in the current scenario? The Sky has Fallen captures this,” she mentions.
For arriving at these ideas, the team made use of a number of techniques including drawing and painting. “This exercise also made their stories crisper,” she observes.
The team is not making use of any multi-media presentations. “The focus is on presenting concepts and ideas through simple movements. Children perform to the recitations, explanations and music in the background,” informs the young dancer.
The main aim of these experiments is to create a culture of debate in dance class. “When I was a student, I was blamed for asking questions by my peers. But as a dance teacher, I wish to create a positive environment for my students to be critical and engage in debate in a healthy manner,” she asserts.
Matangi views this as an exercise to break free from the one-way teaching methodology and creating art from the bottom.