Indian Classical

Using dance for activism | Deccan Herald

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When Sruthy Jayan’s mother was five months pregnant, her musician father had vowed at the Kollur Mookambika temple in Udupi to make the yet-to-be-born baby a dancer. The temple’s deity, incidentally the Goddess of Art, heeded to his wish. When blessed with a daughter, he left no stone unturned in orchestrating her dancing career. The young girl Sruthy Jayan is now a beautiful woman exuding grace in her early twenties. A Kalakshetra product, she holds a master’s degree in Bharatanatyam, is an active performer, while switching her duties as a teacher, choreographer and even as a film actress in Malayalam and Telugu languages. The success of her very first Malayalam film Angamaly Diaries has only added more glitter to her artistic pursuits.

A career as a performing artiste didn’t come easy, she says. “Dance is a very expensive craft, especially when you are a performer. It isn’t necessarily an easy choice to make for anyone living in a middle-class household. My father had decided for me that I would join Kalakshetra right in my fifth grade. Dance was something ingrained in my mind then and I didn’t think of any alternative career option either. It was a difficult stance to take emotionally as well, especially after my brother had passed away very young. Nevertheless, my parents lent me unconditional support and that has made me what I am today,” Sruthy says, adding she owes her progress to her parents.

Parallel universe

Being disconnected from the outside world during her eight-year Kalakshetra stint was integral to her evolution as a dancer. “It’s a parallel universe of a kind, where art reigns supreme. The discipline and the regimen makes all the difference. Could you imagine an institution or a community whose vision has remained unchanged over eight decades?” Sruthy asks. The sustenance of the tradition put forth by a visionary like Rukmini Devi Arundale is the reason why the place is an authority among dancers today, she adds. The gurukulam-like atmosphere and being removed from the digital era in the institution have helped her stay very much in touch with her soul. While the theoretical knowledge of dance enriched her understanding of the art form, the performance aspect was where her heart lay.

Performing key parts in popular dance productions like Sabari Moksham and Panchali Sapatham re-ignited the latent choreographer in her. “My father showed me the way ahead and instilled confidence in me. It’s rare for dancers to choreograph and perform their items and I am glad I possess this skill. My guru Sheeijith Krishna and Leela Samson (akka) helped me change my perspective of choreography. Akka’s choreography touches the soul. Sheejith Krishna’s ability to compose for movies as well as adapt international novels in his dance productions is a genuine source of inspiration,” she remarks.

One of her landmark performances in recent years was a dance show inspired by the Nirbhaya tragedy, where the protagonist (Nirbhaya) is in conversation with Bhoodevi about the injustice meted out to women since the times of Ramayana and Mahabharata (citing instances of Sita, Panchali and others). “I plan to do a dance production based on Amish Tripathi’s book ‘Sita: The Warrior of Mithila’ soon. I hope to perform the show and possibly invite the author for the show too. Sita needed to have a strong mind to accept what all she went through in various phases of her life — both before and after marriage,” Sruthy feels.

She believes that an artiste has a rare gift — the freedom to convey their innermost feelings creatively. Sruthy, however, also feels that dancers need to reach out to people and make them experience the emotions as well. “The difference between dance and cinema is the fact that the latter helps audiences experience the rasa on a deeper level, while dance isn’t able to create a similar effect. Are the audience not evolved enough to understand dance now? Or are the dancers not able to reach out to them? The answer lies somewhere in between.” 


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