Sunday, 17 May 2015


I've enjoyed talking ever since I could utter syllables.
I'm no voracious reader, but I enjoy writing and constructively critiquing language.
My knowledge of words and vocabulary is not vast, but I write from my heart.
I've been dancing ever since I could spell the word, and I've been told that my "Expressions" are really good (I hope for it to be true). I'm sure the situation with most other dancers is similar, they always hear the words "What lovely expressions !!". Ironically, the ones who say "Lovely Expressions" are the ones who also say "I don't really understand what you were depicting". 

The crux - Communication is such a vital aspect of human civilization. 

The ancient texts argue that the sole purpose of Dance is to Educate the Illiterate, Enlighten the Literate and Entertain the Enlightened. But do we realize that none of this is possible if Dance is not regarded as a form of communication by itself ? 
I often wonder why the language of Dance is not so easily understood by the lay person. Lyrics are intended to aid the communication process. To simplify matters, nowadays there are elaborate narratives before a piece starts. And yet, more often than not the message doesn't get across to common people. I'm not sure if this is an issue with the performer, or the audience. However, I'm absolutely certain that it is not an issue with the Art form. 

The expressive part of Dance is known as "Abhinaya". Considered a cakewalk by some, and a nightmare by others, Abhinaya is the most challenging, yet most fundamental element of Dance, for it is the primary mode of Communication. Abhinaya IS Communication.

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a week-long workshop in Abhinaya, conducted by one of the most renowned names in Bharatanatyam today - Guru Bragha Bessel. The sessions with her empowered me in many ways and yet left me humbled and debilitated in many more ways. A bundle of energy, Bragha Akka intensively trained us in the Art of Expressing. Her teaching methodology involved understanding the character in the song, writing down the dialogues that are to be expressed, mentally saying those dialogues while dancing and fine-tuning nuances that are to be brought out through the song. Yes, there is a lot more to the dance that comes alive on stage - a story, a character, sometimes multiple characters, a flow of thought and yes a lot of "Expressions". Not just mechanical movements a with a smile on the face.
The workshop empowered me because I was at total Freedom those seven days. Free to think, free to react, free to express without the fear of going wrong and thus, free to communicate. A reiteration of the freedom I already have and would love to have forever. I say I was left debilitated because, at one point I was just about to give up. I didn't want to dance or practice what was being taught. I wanted to stop everything else and just watch her. Bragha Akka does the job of communicating so effectively and so crisply, there's just no point trying to replicate that, I thought ! Rather watch, learn and experience the joy of  seeing someone communicate so efficiently and effortlessly.
Getting 0.001% close to her level of expertise in Abhinaya is every dancer's dream.... but for me, just being able to communicate like her is enough - where communicating is a way of reaching into the consciousness within oneself and then reaching out to the rest of the world. 

Dance is indeed a language, a form of storytelling. But it is seldom looked at that way by the lay person. My optimistic self always hopes and believes that there will come a day when Dance is Understood and not just Watched. 

Dance Communicates ! 
Within, with oneself and then to the world ! 

1 comment:

  1. Acknowledgements for giving a 'written' form for an experience! While addressing the issue of communication you have addressed a gap that most artistes today are trying to bridge - to reach out to an audience. It also remains that creation of an audience, which is its first step requires repeated initiation of the audience to the classical - repeated watching. This is one way they would come anywhere close to understanding the art and the process is a responsibility - on both sides... Well a long way to go....