Indian Classical

‘It’s important to listen to critics’- The New Indian Express

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Express News Service

BENGALURU: Natya Kala Conference, that takes place every December in Chennai, is an event where dancers, students, critics and scholars gather and brainstorm for five days. A senior classical dancer is usually the convenor for two years. This year, Rama Vaidyanathan took over, and did it differently. It was not free for all as in the past, and one had to register online by paying `500. There were over 800 registrations this year, with many delegates visiting from Bengaluru.

Rama Vaidyanathan

Rama then began the new year with a solo concert in Bengaluru at the Indira Nagar Sangeetha Sabha annual conference. The leading exponent of Bharatanatyam has trained under the legendary Yamini  Krishnamurthy and Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan. She sees Bharatanatyam as a strong medium of communication and has used her dance vocabulary to create some path breaking compositions.

In Mayur Alaripu (The dance of the peacock), she has used a traditional rhythmic structure to capture the bird’s movements. Brhamajaladhara, the story of river Ganga, was another of her acclaimed productions. As the director of Ganesa Natyalaya New Delhi, she has been teaching dance for over 25 years. She talks to CE about keys issues concerning Bharatanatyam today:

What have been your takeaways from the Natya Kala Conference?
My first takeaway is immense faith in the next generation, and the future of Bharatanatyam. Secondly, how important it is to introspect and analyse our art and traditions.

You come from a lineage of dancers. Did you always want to be a professional dancer or were you forced or ‘guided’ to be a dancer?
I wanted to be a dancer from the beginning, as I was in awe of my Guru Yamini Krishnamurti, and could have done anything to become like her. After watching her perform, I decided that it would be nothing but dance for me. I also got tremendous support from my mother.

Being a professional dancer has brought you laurels. Did you miss out on something?
Dance is so much a part of my life that I don’t think I have given up anything for it. In fact, dance has helped me become a better person. At the session on arangetram at NKC, some issues, like the appropriate age or years of practice, were not discussed.

Also, shouldn’t there be some benchmark for becoming a guru? Now, every lane has schools promising arangetram in 2-3 years. I agree that many points were not discussed because of paucity of time. But then, no duration is good enough to discuss such complex issues. We shall certainly discuss them the next time.Who can be a nattuvanar or a conductor? Sometimes, dancers are forced to become nattuvanar due to lack of opportunities to perform. Dance or Mridangam training is important to become a Nattuvanar. Earlier, only gurus were Nattuvanars, but now even young dancers do it. I think it’s good. They are getting an income that can augment their dance career.

How do you manage your many roles, as a dancer, guru, wife, and organiser?
I stay away from excessive social media use, or chatting on the phone aimlessly. Since I travel a lot, I try to stay at home as much as possible, keeping my social engagements to the minimum.

How do you choose the items for a particular performance?  
I spend a lot of time choosing what to perform for every concert. The effort is to present something that I have not performed to that audience.

Is it possible now for someone to depend only on dance to survive?
Struggle awaits every aspiring dancer. But there is light at the end of the tunnel if one follow three things –consistency, hard work and patience.

Classical arts don’t seem to attract youngsters anymore. How can we get them interested?
Youngsters will get interested in classical arts only if we have good teachers who can train, mentor and inspire. The rest will fall in place automatically.

In the age of ‘likes’ on social media, does a dancer care for reviews? 
There are dancers who are satisfied with likes, followers and positive comments on social media. But that will not last long. What will sustain is performance in front of a real audience who will give you a critical review. It is important to pay heed to criticism, because after the initial hurt, it is going to help the dancer.

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