featured in 2014

June 27, 2014

Namaste Mrinaliniji

I have three girls (12, 10 and 7) learning Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam from their guru in East London UK, since they were 5 years old.  My husband and I dream of the girls doing their arangetram in about 5 years time when my youngest will hopefully have completed her Diploma (Grade 6). As we are Gujarati (my family originally from Ambavadi in Ahmedabad and some still living there) the audience at their arangetram will be made up of two-thirds of Gujaratis.  As the majority of the girls’ audience will never have been to a Bharatanatyam show, we want them to enjoy the Bharatanatyam experience by putting a Gujarati theme to the performance. Although their arangetram is a long time away, I have started to search on the internet for Gujarati Carnatic music and songs, but am struggling to find varnams, padams, kirtanams, tillanas etc in Gujarati. 

Could you suggest any Gujarati Carnatic music and songs that would be suitable for an arangetram and/or any traditional arangetram pieces that have been rewritten / sung in Gujarati? Or put me touch with someone who can help me?

I am hoping to come to Ahmedabad with the girls next year and was wondering if you know where I can take the girls (in Ambavadi or nearby) for extra intensive dance and singing classes?
Many thanks for your help in advance.

Kindest regards
Aarti Patel

Dear Aarti

I am sorry Darpana doesn’t have the full Kacheri in Gujarati as we usually mix items of Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam in a concert.  I think Elakshi Thakore  (www.nrityabharti.com) may have the full margam in Gujarati and perhaps you can approach her.

As far as the higher level Bharatanatyam classes are concerned, Darpana has intensive two year Post Graduate and Teacher's Training in Bharatanatyam.  Also one-on-one training is possible following the PG curriculum where singing (nattuvangam) is also a part.

With best wishes

Mrinalini Sarabhai


June 27, 2014

Namaste Mrinaliniji,

I am very much interested to learn nattuvangam and want to excel in it. I have few questions about nattuvangam.
Is there any particular method in playing the cymbals or can it be played as per the guru's convenience?
I usually twist the bronze cymbal for every fourth count. Am I following the correct method? When should the bronze cymbal be twisted?
 
I kindly request you to please throw some light on this. I am used to nattuvangam but till date I have not been part of live programs and just scared if something goes wrong.
 
Thank you in advance,
Srinivas K

Dear Srinivas,

Congratulations on your effort to excel in nattuvangam.  However I am sorry that I didn't quite understand your question.  Cymbals are rhythm bound and should be played accordingly. 

With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai


June 27, 2014

Respected Mrinaliniji

I was preparing for my junior exams in dance from a book and found the last Samyutha hasta mentioned as Avahitta whereas I was taught it to be pronounced as Avahista. Which is correct? Could you also please tell me which text is referred to for mudras? Is it the Abhinaya Darpana or Natyashastra? I have come across sources where a lot of mudras are listed, that do not seem to be practised nowadays. I have been taught only a few Bandhu hastas like the mudra for mother, father and so on but I have seen lists which include mother-in-law, father-in-law etc. Are these mudras used in Bharatanatyam?

Thanking You
Yours sincerely
Smrithi Manamohan

Dear Smrithi Manamohan,

The correct term is Avahitta. 
In Indian classical dance, the mudras are taken from both Natya Shastra and Abhinaya Darpana. Though both the treatises give the root mudras, each dance form combine them in different ways. Many characters have the same mudras but can be differentiated in accordance with the story being narrated.

With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai


Apr 18, 2014

Respected Mrinaliniji,
 
Could you please give me some information regarding these questions. 

1) Religious and mythical stories constitute the themes used in Indian classical dance and provide the roots of these dance forms. The themes are mostly connected with the nayika, the heroine longing to unite with the nayaka, the lord or the supreme power. Is this tendency an analogy for humankind’s longing for spiritual attainment?
 
2) When exactly and how did the devadasi culture start?
 
3) On request from Bharata, Brahma created twenty-six celestial damsels for performances. Parvati taught dance to Usha, the daughter of king Bana and Usha taught the art to the milkmaids of Dvaraka, who in turn taught to the women of Saurashṭhra, who in turn taught to the women of other countries. Thus the art of dancing, which was meant as an entertainment for the gods, was traditionally handed down to the mortals in the world. And is there any specific reason that women dancers were not allowed initially to perform?

Many, many thanks in advance.
Sonia

Dear Sonia,
 
Yes, this longing is termed as Bhaktiyoga which leads to self realization. In India, from earliest times, there were many ways of worshipping God.  The first was the path of knowledge, or jnana; the second was the path of right action, or karma; the third was the path of devotion, or bhakti.  To most, the third way had the greatest appeal, the perfect form of worship being surrender in love.  “All human souls in quest of the universal and infinite are women, the brides of God.”  And “In the bhakti love the Gopis stand for the desires and attachments of finite man, while Krishna symbolizes Pure Consciousness, Beauty and Bliss.”
 
References of court dancers are seen from 6th Century onwards.  In South India, under the patronage of Chola kings, devadasi system flourished. The great Chola King Raja Raja, who ruled from A.D. 985 to 1014, is said to have had four hundred devadasis perform worship at the Brihadishwara temple of Tanjore.  In Somnath also, it is recorded that there were five hundred dancing girls and three hundred musicians.
 
I don't think there were any restrictions for women to perform dancing.  The Puranas tell that it was the Lord Vishnu who first danced after the defeat of the asuras Madhu and Kaitabha.  In such great joy were his movements, that they formed an exquisite dance.  Sri Lakshmi, His bride, joined Him.  Then Vishnu taught the art to Brahma, and Brahma taught it to the Lord Siva, who became the Supreme Dancer.  With Siva and Parvati dance the whole pantheon of Gods and Goddesses.
 
With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai


Apr 18, 2014

Respected Mrinaliniji,
 
Other than the removal of shringara elements in abhinaya, how is Kalakshetra bani different from Pandanallur bani in terms of nritta?
In Darpana, is the traditional Pandanallur style taught?
Which bani of Bharatanatyam is taught in Kalamandalam?
What is the difference between Tanjavur Bani and Pandanallur Bani?

Also I would like to know if the Bharatanatyam sequences in movies of yesteryears fall under sadir. Watching Travancore sisters dance has me wondering if it is even Bharatanatyam. It looks some folkish, filmy performance created for cinema.
 
Thanking You
Smrithi Manamohan

Dear Smrithi Manamohan,
 
Nritta is more or less the same in both Pandanallur and Kalakshetra styles.
 
Darpana follows the elements of Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam which is derived from Tanjavur style.  This style is very strong in all the adavus, taught by my Guru Sri Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai of Pandanallur.
 
All the schools of Bharatanatyam constantly evolved and attained their distinctive style.  Though theoretically the difference between each school is subtle, when it comes to application, each style shows its uniqueness and it might take hours for me to remember and pen down on each.
 
Bharatanatyam shown in the movies has diluted both the classical and folk elements and often used them completely inappropriately and out of context.
 
With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai


Jan 30, 2014

Namaste Mrinalini ji,

I am in my late forties and never learned any form of dance.  I always wanted to learn dance.  How hard or easy is it to start learning dance at this age? I am hoping that it would give me the aerobic exercise that I am looking for and help with weight loss.  Is Bharatanatyam easier to learn or Kuchipudi?  I work full time and I am hard pressed for time.  Any advice that you could give is much appreciated.

Regards,
Gnana Prasuna
Dear Gnana Prasuna,

There is no right age to learn anything new.  Whether it is dance or any art form, if you have the passion you can definitely go ahead and do it. One of my disciples of 1970's left her Bharatanatyam training half way. She again joined her classes a couple of years back and had done her Arangetram at the age of 52.

Whether you do it as a means of physical exercise or passion, it is your personal choice.  But keep in mind that all classical dance forms are strenuous when it comes to the training. Wish you good luck.

With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai


Jan 30, 2014

I am a tabla player by profession...I have been watching Bharatanatyam, both Tanjore and Kalakshetra bani... I would like to know, are there any water tight gharanas in Bharatanatyam as in Hindustani music and dance tradition?

Regards
Sachin Pawgi
 
Dear Sachin Pawgi,

All schools of Bharatanatyam have its distinctive styles and attributes.  All the schools of Bharatanatyam constantly evolved and changed as per decision of the gurus.  Every art evolves with the passing of time.

With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai


Jan 30, 2014

Dear Mrinalini ji,
 
I would like to know about a few good gifting options for Bharatanatyam Arangetram that I am invited to. The dancer is 14 years old right now – and I want to gift something more unique than a Nataraja or Ganesha idol. The girl is the daughter of a very senior leader in my organization and the function is on a grand scale, so I don’t want to go without a nice gift. Please advise.
Regards,
Mansi 

Dear Mansi,

I always suggest a book or a live plant when it comes to gifting.  Both have direct connotation to life.

With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai


Jan 30, 2014

Respected Guruji,

I have read that the present day costume that we use for Bharatanatyam was designed during the revival of sadir attam. What was the original costume used by the devadasis? How is present day Bharatanatyam different from sadirattam? Was the dance done by the devadasis more effeminate? Could you please explain to me what are rechakas and their types? What are the hip movements and chest movements in Bharatanatyam? I know that I have asked too many questions in one go but my curiosity forces me to. I would be really grateful if you can clear my doubts.

Regards
Smrithi Manamohan

Dear Smrithi,

Court dancers wore sari and jewelry.  It was Rukmini Devi who was instrumental in modifying both their style and costume.  Sadirattam had effeminate elements and erotic sringara was in predominance.  Though there are criticisms that Rukmini Devi brahminized Bharatanatyam, I believe it as a much needed cleansing process, something which was necessary for its current mass appeal.

Rechakas are the movements of any limb in a circular manner and distinct from karanas, charis etc.  There are four types, namely; greeva, hasta, kati and pada rachakas.

Vaksha Bheda (chest movements) are used to show various emotions like love by extending chest, inward movements when anything strikes the chest like an arrow or other object and sorrow, fear, shame and other emotions. 

There are five Kati Kramas (waist movements) – Chinna, Nivritta, Prakambita, Rechita and Udvahita. 

With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai