Saturday, November 19, 2005

Art and girth

There is a direct connection of rhythm and body. An artist practices to vibrate the instrument of nritya –body - on the sounds of drums and the music of the vocal chords. This unusual but graceful flow of the body requires a lot of riyaaz which builds up the stamina of an artist. Through this aspect of nritya, we are able to appreciate the masterpiece (body) created by the Almighty. Nritya has never been just a physical aspect. Especially, in our classical art-form, there is a continuous interaction between the body and mind. Without the mind, the body would be like a tree without roots, hence the perfection of dance would disappear. The mind guides an artist towards perfection, hence the mind and body work together to create the magic of nritya. Emotion plays an integral part in transforming a physical and mental exertion into a art. When the heart (mann) gets along with body and mind, an art evolves and the artist glows from within and transits the audience to a different world. Alaknanda Noida, July 8, 2005
In a very profound way, the dancer's tools are not just the grammar and the syntax of, say, Bharatanatyam, but more fundamentally her body and the energy that suffuses it. It means that personality in a dancer, or any actor for that matter, is of two kinds.
  • The first relates to what may be called social personality such as the kind we notice when we say "That's a pretty girl" or That's a funny fellow."
  • The second kind of personality has to do with the dancer as an instrument. When he or she is a person of fluent emotional nature, quick sensory reaction, mobility of inner constitution, a person with an expressive, may be even melodious voice, natural grace, commanding, proportionate figure, imagination, impressionability and temperament and if such a person has also a command over the material of a dance form, the resulting material would most likely be authentic.

By themselves technical neatness and fluency, the mere mechanics of dance can't create that authenticity that we are talking about. Shanta Serbjeet Singh APPAN International written in the mid-eighties for "The Hindustan Times"

It has been said with some justification that the oversized dancer in Indian classical dance does not evoke the kind of waspish comments he or she would in the West, where ballet is less accommodating of the fat dancer. We quote verses from the Natya Shastra or the Abhinaya Darpana upholding comments made on the dance, but keep silent when it comes to a dancer whose girth negates the physical attributes prescribed for a dancer in the shastras. In fact, some performers would seem to sport those very qualities mentioned as disqualification. Leela Venkataraman, 'A question of weight,' Hindu, Delhi, June 10, 2005

What was pointed out was the deviation in Odissi costume, its 'áuchitya' as Shanta Serbjeet Singh would say and the changes in original choreography. Dancers dancing in tight, low cut blouses with navel rings dangling from bare midriff, was found a 'violation' of what Odissi costume is/should be; it was in bad taste too. If some people found it to be of good taste they are entitled to their opinions. Bibhuti Mishra October 14, 2005

It is hugely important to confront this kind of moral policing with logic and specially with factual information on cultural history. Our culture needs no lessons from anyone and stands solidly on its own sophistication. And it has always been dynamic and adapting. If these people are so concerned about 'tradition,' let them take the dance back into the temples, make sure it is not performed anywhere else, removed from television, under only oil lamps. Ram Rahman, New York City, October 4, 2005

We should celebrate variety and diversity, as our culture holds this principle as essence. Dr. Soubhagya Pathy, Rahul Acharya, Chittaranjan Bairisal and Harsa Kumar Satapathy September 28, 2005

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