A Bharata Natyam workshop led by Dr Padma Subrahmanyam and her troupe of students from her dance institute, Nrithyodaya was held at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations centre in Johannesburg last night.
The meeting of a guru and eager disciple. Subrahmanyam introduced the class to a very insightful overview into the classical art of Bharata Natyam with a series of demonstrations from her students who had the attendess in awe of the sheer brilliance of Bharata Natyam in its simplest movements. In that situation the nectar of knowledge was percolated into the audiences heart without any need left for words – a wordless communication. And this is what happened last night in Johannesburg at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
During the audience interaction with Subrahmanyam, the Director of the Anavarata Institute, the 50 year old Indian dance company in Africa introduced herself to the dance guru. During the conversation, Subrahmanyam’s composure changed as she realized that she was talking to the daughter of a former disciple of hers. The late Rani Naidoo who was taught by her. An emotional few minutes was shared between Dr Subrahmanyam and Anavarata’s Anusia. Subrahmanyam recalled the days of when Anusia’s mother was her next door neighbour and their moments of teacher and guru. Subrahmanyam’s face lit up at this historical moment as she had the opportunity to meet the daughter of her student, Rani. She lauded the work of Anusia and her students and was proud of the moment that she could see her work of the classical art form being propogated through the talented students of Anavarata Dance Institute. The workshops attendees broke out in applause of this discovery of the generation of Subrahmanyam’s teachings were being taught here in South Africa.
Anusia explains the link with Dr Padma Subrahmanyam. “Amma was neighbours of Padmaji in Gyndi Rd, Adyar. My late grandfather, Mr. M. A. Nydoo was Director of Rani Theatres (Clairwood) and Vijay Cinemas(Asherville) had both a bond of friendship and business with Padmaji’s father, a reknowned film producer. Both sisters were already enrolled and studying at Saraswathi Gnana Nilayam, in Triplicane when they found out about the Government subsidised Institution that Padmaji’s father had founded. Padma very kindly offered Amma tuition once she had completed her studies and Arangetram. Amma always spoke fondly of the knowledge imparted to her and followed Padmaji’s career and developments in Bharata Natyam very closely, until her passing in 2005. ”
“At the workshop I acknowledged her contribution to the development of Indian classical dance in this country through my mother. She was thrilled to see that African dancers were also sharing the passion that she, my mother Natya Thillakum Rani Nydoo Govender and I have in common. Rani and Prema continued their careers by being the 1st Kathak Dancers(1965) in SA and I became the 1st Odissi Dancer(1989). ”
Dr Padma Subrahmanyam is acclaimed as a rare combination of a dancer, research scholar, choreographer, singer, music composer, teacher, author and indologist. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music, a Master’s Degree in Ethno Musicology and her Ph.D Thesis is on “Karanas in Indian Dance & Sculpture”. She is the first to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Dr. Padma is the President of Nrithyodaya, the dance school founded by her father in 1942. Read more about her here
Read more about Anavarata Dance Institute here
About Bharata Natyam
Bharatanatyam dancer often portrays Shiva’s characteristic pose of Nataraja: his right hand holds the drum of creation, symbolising a primeval sound. His left hand holds fire destroying the old universe; his second right hand is raised in Abhaya hastha (blessing ). The second left hand points to his left foot that crushed demon Muyalaka who is the embodiment of ignorance.
There are 9 main or primary emotions-relations-moods, Sthayi (basic) bhavas, which are called NavRasas: Shringara (Love), Hasya (Mirth) , Veera (Heroism), Roudra (Wrath) , Bhayanaka (Terror ), Bheebatsa (Disgust) , Adbhuta (Amazement), Karuna (Compassion ). Shanta (Calm) was added much later, just as Vatsalya (parental affection) rasa. Apart from the fundamental bhavas, there are Vibhava (what triggers an emotion), Anubhava is the result (consequence) of an emotion, and Sanchari bhava (transitory states).
These Bharathanatyam elements are also seen as the mystic symbols of Bhakti Yoga. Sringara means love, but this is not confined to rati sringara. There is bhakti sringara and vatsalya sringara besides rati sringara. Even among some of its practitioners, Bharatnatyam is often misinterpreted as being limited solely to bhakti. Balasaraswati believed Bharatanatyam is based on bhakti and that “it is justified in being called a yoga because it is a spiritual discipline perfecting the mind to thought-free serenity”.
The manner in which the use of the human body as a an instrument to magically create dance motion was breathtaking. A Bharatanatyam dancer often portrays Shiva’s characteristic pose of Nataraja: his right hand holds the drum of creation, symbolising a primeval sound. His left hand holds fire destroying the old universe; his second right hand is raised in Abhaya hastha (blessing ). The second left hand points to his left foot that crushed demon Muyalaka who is the embodiment of ignorance.