featured in 2008

Oct 22, 2008

Respected Mrinaliniji,
I just finished reading your book 'Creations.' That book really inspired me and gave me a new direction of looking towards dance and choreography. I would like to ask you some questions.
1. Do you think classical dance forms need revival in today's times?
2. What qualities make a good choreographer?
3. What is the meaning of the term 'classical' according to you?
4. How could we increase the interest of common man in classical dance?

Regards,
Madhura
    Dear Madhura
    1. Classical dance forms are already going through a revival here. There seems to be more appreciation now.

    2. One needs a thorough knowledge of the dance technique before trying to choreograph. Care should be taken that one does not invent but rather go deeper into the technique. The meaning given to each movement should be clear to the choreographer. I personally donít like mixing techniques. Classical dance has come down through the ages. When I first came to Gujarat, there was a kind of opposition to my dancing. I danced everywhere and then people realized how sacred and beautiful it is.

    3. 'Classical' is what has come down through the ages.
    When I learnt Bharatanatyam, I went to a great guru late Shri Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai in Tanjavur. For Kathakali, the wonderful dancer-teacher Kunju Kurup who stayed in my home in Chennai and his classes with me often began at 5am.
    My own performances all over the world started with classical Kathakali and Bharatanatyam and ended with one of my own compositions.

    4. Just dance everywhere you can as I did and people who come out of curiosity will begin to understand and love it. That is the best way.

    Happy Deepavali to you, and good wishes.
    Mrinalini Sarabhai

Oct 14, 2008

Dear Mrinaliniji,
I have been pursuing Bharatanatyam for past 5 years and I am 30 years old working full time in the IT field. Bharatanatyam is my passion! I want to do my arangetram soon and then devote more time and effort to dance so I can become a performing artist. My questions are:

1. I am noticing that every time I start a new piece (currently I am learning a varnam), I start getting knee pain. This is probably because I practise extra hard to perfect the item. Currently I am practising about 1 hour per day (5 days a week) followed by a 2 hour class once a week. I figured I need to practise atleast this much if I want to improve and get to an arangetram level and beyond. My knees however have started hurting a lot and I get very disappointed. How can I overcome knee pain? Do some people just have inherently weak knees, or is the aramandi posture inherently traumatic to the knee? Or is it just a matter of some faulty technique of mine?

2. How does one get from a student level to a performing artist level?

Thanks very much for your responses.
Bhavani
    Dear Bhavani
    All dancers have knee and back problems! For your knees, I suggest you wear kneecaps when you practice. What I have found very good is to put a thick layer of Ďtherapeutic clayí on the knees at night regularly and keep them overnight, wrapped with cotton. Therapeutic clay is available at good pharmacies.

    A student must give performances regularly. Thatís the only way!

    Good luck
    Mrinalini

Oct 8, 2008

Dearest Amma,
Can you please explain to me the Kalasams used in Kathakali? I am now learning more about Kathakali, and these Kalasams seem to be confusing.

Warm regards
Saritha
    Dear Saritha,
    In a Kathakali recital, the actor can make his own improvisations and enact the dialogues following the lyrics sung by the singers. This is called Cholliyattam. After the conclusion of different variations of Cholliyattams, the accompanying music comes to a punctuating logical conclusion, with a 'piece' known as 'Kalasam' played only on percussion instruments. In this pure dance 'Kalasam,' the mood of the dance always matches that of the character portrayed.

    Regards
    Mrinalini Sarabhai

August 14, 2008

I am a Brazilian completely in love with Bharatanatyam. I have been practicing for 4 years but still have a long way to go. My dream is to live in a gurukkul for few months, to be totally immersed in the art since morning till night, everyday and attending a hard dance training for several hours per day but it seems that nowadays this gurukkul system of learning has almost ended.

I know about few institutions (like Kerala Kalamandalam) but they just have long term course (4 or 5 years) and also for young students (I am 30 years old).

Do you know any other institution that offers gurukkul system of learning Bharatanatyam with short term course?

Thanks for your help.

Best regards,
Mrs. Desai
    Dear Mrs. Desai
    There is an academy in Chennai called Kalakshetra which gives courses, but not short term. For further details, visit www.kalakshetra.in.
    Also if you come here to Darpana, we can give you classes. There is no gurukula system. We have an academy of dance, music, theatre and puppetry. Further details can be obtained from www.darpana.com

    Regards
    Mrinalini Sarabhai

August 10, 2008

I am a student of Bharatanatyam and I'm fast approaching my arangetram. My workout regimen until recently included 25mins on the treadmill. Since I have weak knees, my guru asked me to find an alternative approach to cardio. I've been swimming instead for the last few months. Although it has improved flexibility, and been a boon in disguise to my knees, I'm finding that my thighs cramp up quite easily during dance practise. Even a 5 min mallari can get a little hard to get through. I was wondering, if this is due to swimming...and my question to you is whether you know of a cardio workout for dancers that has maximal benefits with minimal side effects.

Warm regards,
Sujit
    Dear Sujit
    The first thing is to give up treadmill and swimming till your Arangetram. You should not do anything except dancing till your Arangetram. You can do Yoga, which will improve your cramps. For your knees I would suggest finding some good clay and apply it on your knees every night.
    You may be able to find clay in a pharmacy (over the counter).

    Regards
    Mrinalini Sarabhai

July 25, 2008

Dear Mrinaliniji
My daughter is in the last (seventh) year of Bharatnatyam. We are very keen on going ahead with the Arangetram Programme but I have a few queries regarding the same.

1) What are the benefits of giving an Arangetram?
2) Do you receive a Certificate on giving an Arangetram?
3) Her teacher has quoted Rs.2,00,000/- plus figure. Is there any other cheap option available as this cost is too high.

Would be very grateful if you could kindly address the above issues.

Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,
Mrs. Armin F Lala
    Dear Mrs. Armin Lala
    The spelling of Bharatanatyam is incorrect. Please spell it correctly. It is made up of three words 'Bha' for Bhava, 'Ra' for Raga and 'Ta' for Tala.

    The Arangetram is like the SSC (end of school), the end of basic training and the beginning of dance. I do give a certificate from Darpana. Try to make the Arangetram without too much expense except for two costumes, perhaps typical jewellery and presents for the musicians and the guru. It could be cash or dhotis (for men) and sarees (for women). In Ahmedabad, usually gurus get Rs.5000/- as dakshina and accompanists Rs.1000/- each.

    Regards
    Mrinalini Sarabhai

July 5, 2008

Dear Mrinaliniji
1. What is the correct age to start dance?
2. What is the right age to do arangetram?
3. Do you feel yoga or any stretching exercise is needed before your dance training class?
4. What is the right dancing surface to practice dance- concrete/ wood /or any other surface?

Regards
Anbarasi
    Dear Anbarasi
    It depends on the child. If she is strong and healthy then around seven would be fine.
    The arangetram should be done around sixteen when there is some maturity especially for abhinaya.
    Here in Darpana, we do yoga before classes but it is strenuous so not always necessary. A few stretching exercises just to limber up are useful.
    A wooden floor is the best, but not always available. In Gujarat, the stone is usually 'kota' for the dancing floors and in the south 'kadappa' which are non-slippery and have excellent resolvability.

    Regards
    Mrinalini

July 4, 2008

Dear Mrinaliniji,
Could you please answer a few questions:

1. What is the relation between rasanubhava and bhava samadhi?

2. Can you explain Natya Shastra's statement that "sattva with bhava appears in relation to the people of the opposite sex"?

3. What elements of kama sringara were cut out a century ago, and why?

4. What elements of natyadharmi can be found (and where) in the items that were included in Swati Soft's DVDs featuring Kalanidhi Narayanan?
(I tried to find any, but all the abhinaya I can find there seems to be limited to the expressions that most people in Chennai witness in their everyday life)

Thanking you very much in advance,
Sincerely,
Yamuna
    Dear Yamuna
    (1) In essence both are the same and lead to Ananda. However Rasanubhava is an aesthetic experience in which the artistís emotion involves the audience in an experience which contains both feeling and understanding. Bhava Samadhi or super conscious state is normally attained by bhaktas or devotees through intense divine emotion. Rasanubhava would have sensuous content, while in Bhava Samadhi, sensuousness is completely eliminated.

    (2) In the case of dramatics, the sattva is presumably a cognitive ground which enables the actor to be receptive to the delightfulness of the role he is performing. In the Natyasastra, sattva is connected with the representation of the emotions (bhava). Just as flowers emit fragrance so is rasa kindled from the psychological states of the bhavas. Bharata's theory of the evolvement of rasa is inalienably tied to the substrate of lived experiences in the world - symbolically the elements that the creator put in creating the flower.
    We must acknowledge that level of reality before we undertake any speculation about their role in human affairs.

    (3) Shringara Rasa is born from the pleasure of love and the sthayibhava is rati, the passion of love. Unfortunately, the original intent of devotion to God was eclipsed by the basic instincts in court dances. Sringara was used by the dancers to court kings and administrators. The erotic content, called 'rati bhava' or 'sringara rasa' was predominant in these expositions.
    Several key personnel such as Rukmini Devi emerged to revive the pure art and elevated it to carry divine content.
    Nowadays, almost all classical forms of Indian dance portray some form of worship. It is customary to intertwine religion, wisdom and art in these performances.

    (4) I didn't see Swati Soft's DVDs featuring Kalanidhi Narayan.

    Regards
    Mrinalini

June 29, 2008

Respected Mrinalniji
I have referred many other books about music.
Please explain what is actual difference in Kaal, Marg and Ang.
I studied many books but unfortunately none of them correctly explain the difference between these 3 base of Taal.
Almost same thing- time calculation or Vibhag Taali Khali is used to explain in all these three.
If they are same, then why in shloka are they separated??

Regards
Ashwani Nigam
    Dear Ashwani Nigam
    As you are aware each composition is rendered at different speeds. This speed is called kaal.
    Marg means path. Denotes how the talam is displayed in various songs and the number of swaras used with them. There are six types of Marg namely, Dakshinam, Vartikam, Chitram, Chitrataram, Chitratamam and Ati Chitrataram.
    Ang means a limb, unit of thala. There are six angs or parts namely Anudrutam, Drutam, Laghu, Guru, Plutam and Kakapadam

    Regards and sorry for the delay as I was out of town.
    Mrinalini Sarabhai

May 30, 2008

Dear Mrinaliniji,
At a 2007 arangetram in Chennai, where he was invited as a chief guest, guru Narasimhachari in his speech said (this is not the exact wording), "There was a belief that it is difficult for a dancer to become successful unless she is promoted by a white man."

I wonder why he said it. I did not have a chance to ask him what exactly he meant, but I thought that he probably meant Balasaraswathi, for example.

My questions are:
- What do you think of the role of "white men" promoting Bharatanatyam dancers?
- Do you think the dancer has to marry a VIP like the Doordarshan Director, or at least a Finance Minister's son, or a rich NRI, or a foreigner in order to become "successful"?

What is "success" in your opinion?

Regards,
K Geetha
    Dear Geeta
    What absolute nonsense! Balasaraswati had no 'white man' around as far as I remember. He may have been thinking of Rukmini Devi's husband Mr. Arundale who was a member of the Theosophical Society with Dr. Annie Besant. He encouraged his wife in her dance recitals. But there is no other 'white man' I know of!

    My mother was a good friend of Balasaraswati, and her mother Jayamma used to come home to teach us vocal music in Chennai.

    There is no need to rely on anybody except oneself and hard work to become successful. A good guru is the only 'essential' necessary and practice, practice, practice!! In Thanjavur with my guru, I used to practice ten hours a day!

    Regards
    Mrinalini

April 22, 2008

Dear Mrinaliniji
For the last 5 years, I have been pursuing Bharatanatyam very seriously. I am also working full time as a software engineer. I am 30 years old and married but don't have any children yet. Bharatanatyam is my passion and I am absolutely in love with this art form, that I don't even want to have children at this point. I can't stand the thought of not dancing for several months during my pregnancy. I am also afraid of not regaining my physical fitness after delivery. I request you to please answer some of my below concerns:

1. How easy is it or how long does it take to get back to dancing after pregnancy (I mean in terms of physical fitness and skill)?
2. I will be doing my arangetram in a year or two. Is this too late considering that I am already 30?
3. How realistic is it for me to have aspirations of being a professional dancer and achieving amazing heights?

Thank you very much in advance,

Sincerely,
Bhavani
    Dear Ms. Bhavani,
    Primarily, I think it is wonderful to have children!
    If you are physically fit, you can dance after two months depending on your fitness and whether you are feeding your baby. It's never too late to do your arangetram. We have just had one of a woman of forty seven, who is diabetic!
    Donít worry about achieving 'amazing heights.' Just practice hard with a good teacher and practice regularly. Enjoy the hard work rather than think of results. No one can predict 'amazing heights.' Aspirations are fine but hard work is the only way of achieving success.
    Just enjoy the dancing.

    Good luck!
    Mrinalini

April 5, 2008

Namaskaram Amma,
Thank you very much for clarifying how i should approach learning from other's choreography. I have one other question that is bothering me...

How do you select your students? For instance, if there is a child who is learning but you can see that they are not going to attain professional levels because of the shortcomings of their physical structure etc., how do you deal with it? As a teacher, what is your goal? Are you teaching to spread joy and encouraging everyone to dance? Are you training the select few who will continue the work? Are you training them to simply teach your choreography or are you training them to create their own work? How would you deal with children who pursue this as a hobby only and come to class to have fun? What is wrong with that? But is it wrong to see it as a waste of the teacher's personal time?

Thanks very much for sharing your wisdom with me, Amma.
Megha
    Dear Megha
    I don't select students. All children who come are accepted. It does not matter that they do not become 'professional!' They learn about their culture in all aspects. As a teacher, apart from dance, I try to teach them the cultural heritage of India and the meaning of the ideas of our civilization. Recently I choreographed a dance drama on the History of Indian Science. The talented dancers join our professional group, which tours everywhere.

    Choreography is the outcome of one's creativity and training only enhances it. We follow the gurukula tradition in training and welcome new creative ideas from the teachers and students. They are also encouraged to create their own work. I dislike the word 'hobby' but any child wishing to study goes through the regular classes. It teaches 'discipline' and an understanding of our 'parampara.' No child comes to have 'fun' as it is a very exerting technique and they have to work hard. So this point does not arise in our classes. The ones who cannot keep up are requested to join the folk group, which is not as exerting as our classical forms, and yet is very disciplined.

    Wishing you the best
    Amma

March 29, 2008

Dear Mrinaliniji,
Thanks for your response. What you say is true for classical dance. When I said contemporary, I meant abstract themes where the movements do not seem to be attached with a purpose or meaning and not contemporary themes. My basic question is, can movement exist without symbolism? In classical dance we have the whole gamut of abhinaya hastas, bhedas, sthanakas etc to convey "meaning". On the other hand, we also have some pure dance items like alarippu (I think this is the most graceful abstract item ever and I feel very sad that dancers do not present this item nowadays), jathiswaram and tillana where the dancer has rhythm and melody as a structural framework to weave movement patterns.

But can a classical dancer pick up an abstract theme such as, say for example, "glass" and perform it? If that is the object of presentation can a classical dancer become one with the object within the bounds of classical vocabulary? If not, then does that mean that classical dance has a limited vocabulary for exploration of abstract themes as some of the dancers who have moved on to abstract dancing from classical dance claim? Can classical dance transcend the devotional framework it is based on? Also, in your choreography experience, have you ever felt that the classical vocabulary is not enough to express an idea?

Regards,
Sumana Srinivasan
    Dear Ms. Sumana Srinivasan
    Yes, movement can exist without symbolism. Even in Bharatanatyam, the Tillana is just movement and not symbolic. Classical dance is the basis for Ďmovementí and not necessarily 'meaning.' Abstract themes can surely be performed.

    Recently I choreographed a dance piece on 'Science' titled 'The Dance of Life.' The movements are all classic! (Watch the extracts on http://www.darpana.com/rep) I have never felt any restriction in classical dance. It is the way one expresses the movements. When one is classically trained (for me Bharatanatyam, Kathakali & Manipuri), dance is fully expressive.

    Through the years we have confronted many social evils through classical art forms and I feel it is the strongest and yet most beautiful way of creating awareness of the problems around the world.

    Regards
    Mrinalini Sarabhai

March 20, 2008

Madam
Rasikas of Indian dance thank you for agreeing to answer questions despite your busy life. I have two questions.
1. It is easy to identify Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam and Odissi just by looking at aharya apart from noting the more important aspects of dance movements. But how is Kuchipudi different from Bharatanatyam? It looks the same as the latter except for some minor differences like hanging the plait of hair in front of the body or holding a screen before the heroine in a dance drama before she is revealed. The answers I have received so far from others are vague and not satisfactory.

2. Rupakam is unique in that it consists of a drutam followed by a laghu in its anga unlike in the case of all the remaining talas where it is the other way round. However, both musicians and dancers call it Tisra Ekam and count it as 3 plus 3 beats in the case of the chatusra jati instead of 2 plus 4. I have found that it affects the arudi of the song. I shall be thankful for enlightening me on the reason for this distortion of the tala.

With best regards,
Yours faithfully
A Seshan
    Dear Mr. Seshan
    (1) In Bharatanatyam, the Nayika is talking to the deity, whereas in Kuchipudi 'she' is telling the story directly to the audience and she is very playful, so she is a kathakar. As in Bhama Kalapam, she introduces herself as 'I am Bhama, the daughter of Satrajit' and everything is addressed to the audience. In Kuchipudi, the curves of the body are emphasized and it is almost a playful teasing quality with the poses in a graceful lasya.
    In Bharatanatyam, there is no audience interaction and it's more like a prayer, a prayer to God, detached, and emphasizes the bhakti aspect. The style in Bharatanatyam is very classical and there are strict rules.

    (2) Normally, we count Roopakam as one drutam and one laghu, that's six aksharas and according to the jati, the laghu will change. There is also another way of putting the same tala with a one anudrutham and one drutham, making it three aksharas. In the third way that you mentioned (tishra ekam), the counting would be three plus three beats. This is mainly done to simplify the counting / choreography.

    Regards
    Mrinalini

Mar 18, 2008

Dear Mrinaliniji
This debate about contemporary vs. classical, form and purpose, subject vs. object has been popping up ever so often in conversations with dancers, in reviews in the print media and also on narthaki. I believe classical dance is based on "transcending the self" whereas contemporary dancers believe in "self self and self" :). The ancient texts believe that rasanubhooti happens when the subject and the object of dance becomes one. So
then, in a contemporary setting how does rasanubhoothi happen when everything is narcisstic? What is the clear dividing line between classical and contemporary? Does contemporary mean lack of form? Anti-establishment?
Can any one in reality become truly abstract without being just plain? Can anyone separate their thought processes from their culture, heritage, language, regional customs, family customs, pan Indian customs baggage? How can one transcend beyond what five senses can perceive when dance itself is a sensual art?

I'll be glad if I can get a few answers for what it "is" rather than for what "it is made to be."

Regards
Sumana Srinivasan
    Classical dance is certainly in its traditional form, a prayer, praising the Gods and asking for their blessing. It was in the 60's that I created the dance on 'women suicides and dowry deaths' as I was deeply stirred by reading about these incidents. While it was Bharatanatyam, it spoke another language of despair and cruelty. In Kathakali also, I used the technique to depict the life of man called 'Manushya.'

    In my case, the dividing line was the subject chosen not the technique. The devotional attitude was changed and a modern problem was the central theme. Since then we have done many dance dramas with the techniques of the styles of Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Kuchipudi.

    To me the basic dance is a powerful technique and we use it in many ways, yet strictly adhering to the technique. Usually in our programs, we allot half of it to the classical form and then the later half to new expressions. The thought process is the same except that they deal with present day problems. I believe that only a strong foundation in classical forms is necessary or rather essential before attempting new experiments. The technique must be fully mastered before experiments are attempted. Dance is not a sensual art; it is devotional in Bharatanatyam and dramatic in Kathakali. Devotion is often shown in sensual gestures but that is the dancerís interpretation of love! One can surely transcend the 'ordinary' in a recital and inspire the audience to feel the 'bhakti' and reverence for the supreme (whatever the religion) in a performance. I donít think dance is a sensual art unless one makes it so.

    Irrespective of the style, rasanubhuti would derive provided the following conditions are met with:
    'Yatho hasthas tha tho drushtir
    Yatho drushtis tha tho manaha
    Yatho manas tha tho bhavo
    Yatho bhavastha tho rasaha.'

    Regards
    Mrinalini

Feb 19, 2008

Namaskaram,
I am at a loss to explain the differences in the different styles of Bharatanatyam - Kalakshetra, Pandanallur and Darpana. Could you please elaborate on them or at least point me to where I can get this information?

Thank you
Vyjayanthi Gopalan
    The Pandanallur style is followed by Kalakshetra and Darpana. This style is very strong in all the adavus, taught by Meenakshi Sundarma Pillai in Pandanallur, Tangore District. I learnt from him and also studied abhinaya (expression) from Vidwan Ellappa as that is a softer style and good for expressing Sringara.

    Mrinalini

Feb 9, 2008

Namaste Mrinaliniji,
I have a nine year old daughter who is very keen on learning Bharatnatyam, so I have enrolled her at a dancer school here in Coimbatore. Since I have no knowledge about this art form I would request you to please guide me regarding the below queries

1. How many years normally does it take to perform Salangai puja.

2. How many years it takes in normal circumstances to perform Arangetram.

Thanking you for your help.
Shilpa Karnik
    Dear Shilpa
    Nowadays, Salangai puja is not usually done. There is a small puja on the stage on the Arangetram day for Nataraja and the ghungrus are placed there for blessing. Then the bells are given with a prayer by the guru.
    Normally a child takes at least five years to learn.

    Regards
    Mrinalini V Sarabhai

Feb 3, 2008

Namaste Mrinaliniji,
Today the focus of arangetram has shifted from its core ritual focus, towards becoming a theatrical event, status symbol & a publicity stunt. I will be extremely grateful to receive an opinion from you.

Thank you
Regards,
Juee Deogaokar
    Dear Juee
    We cannot prevent arangetrams from being publicity stunts, but we can be strict in our own performances. The religious aspect is very important but we can only do it by our own performances. I personally believe that the religious aspect should be emphasized in dignity and simplicity.

    At Darpana, I call it 'Aradhana (worship)' and am very strict about keeping it like a temple offering. Even the costumes are white sarees to begin with and after the varnam they wear a colorful South Indian sari. All ornaments are classical.

    Unfortunately we cannot restrict people from making it like a theatrical event except by being an example!

    Regards
    Mrinalini V. Sarabhai

Jan 28, 2008

Namasthe Madam,
I would be extremely delighted to receive an opinion from you about this question that has been haunting my mind for a long time - about the importance of parallel training for a Bharatanatyam dancer in today's world.
Is it enough that the dancer is trained in just one form of dancing or is it essential for her to train in other movement arts like martial arts and other movement arts to grow and sustain as a dancer in today's world?
Does training in parallel movement art forms kill the purity of a particular dance form or would it help in enriching the dance and dancer at a much higher level?
I would be honored if you could share your thoughts about this topic.

Regards
Artistically yours
Veena Basavarajaiah
    Dear Veena
    One has to be completely grounded in one technique before starting another. My own base was Bharatanatyam (more than 9 hours a day in Tanjavur) and then when I formed my group, I learnt Kathakali from Guru Kunju Kurup. Also I had to do Manipuri in Santiniketan. My Bharatanatyam has stayed firm in the meanwhile so the basic training is very important. Here in Darpana, dancers do Kalari Payattu which helps the body. So decide yourself as basic training is very, very important.

    Good luck.
    Mrinalini V Sarabhai

Jan 25, 2008

Namaste, Madam
1. In today's environment, if a dancer desires to have a good standard of living, it is close to impossible to rely on just teaching and performing dance. What are your thoughts on pursuing a career outside dance and balancing that with teaching and performing at the same time?

2. Could you please share some tips on how to handle marriage and married life when attempting to pursue dance? Many of us a very strong willed women who take to dance and it is very easy to jeopardize relationships and forget to enjoy the real life role of innocent nayika because of pressures of performing ambitions. How come it is easier for musicians? Thoughts?

3. What are the 10 things that husbands of artists should know before getting into marriage so that we can balance everything well?

4. What is the moral line to adapting another artist's choreography? If the choreographer is my teacher, I think it is ok to adapt. But when we see a program of a different school and style and see something beautiful, it affects us. When we take up the same subject matter, it comes back to us. If we use the same concept, posture, movement or enact the drama, are we stealing the efforts of others who take pains to research and create? How can we be blind to learning by seeing? How can we not use something that is beautiful?

5. As a corollary to the above, if we all start taking ideas from each other, where is the question of maintaining the style? How important is it to you in your opinion that the different styles of Bharatanatyam maintain distinction? How important do you think it is to eminent teachers that their students follow their style? Or do you think that the Gurus recognize and appreciate each student creating a style that is true to their individual calling?

Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts! Many thanks to Anitaji for providing us a vehicle to ask our questions.

Sincerely,
Megha
    Dear Megha
    Namaskaram!
    (1) Today's environment is difficult for dancers. Yet there are more dancers today in the limelight than at any other time. Finance is always a headache, unless one is good and popular enough to be invited for recitals frequently. But usually the problem is overcome by dance classes. Try teaching students or choose any career which gives you time to practice.

    (2) There are no 10 things that a husband should know. Just choose a man who is fond of music, sophisticated enough to understand your obsession, who likes the theatre, who is outgoing (not too much!) and above all understanding your wish to dance.

    (3) There is no special formula for this. You must adjust as you think best. I have many students doing just that. Perhaps by taking work that does not interfere with dance practice or with your life at home.

    I don't think it is easier for musicians, at least not for good ones. They have to work as hard. When one gets cold or a sore throat before a concert, just imagine their plight! No career comes easily!

    (4) If you see something beautiful, you can adopt the idea, not the choreography. Inspiration is always good for artists, but not copying. Art can never be copied. To be inspired is a different. I often get ideas while reading, also from nature and from everyday life. You can get ideas from other people, the world around you and adapt them to your own vision. One does not have to copy.
    Take ideas but do not imitate.

    (5) For me Bharatanatyam is the Pandanallur style with its strong movements and perfect lines. One has to create one's individual style selecting and choosing without copying. Surely we each have our own individual choices. So one never needs to copy. Be inspired certainly but don't imitate.
    There are not many styles of Bharatanatyam. The Kalakshetra, Pandanallur and Darpana are all the strong clear cut styles. Many of the others are rather feeble in my opinion! Practice is also very essential. I did ten hours a day when I was in the south learning from Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai. One should also understand the nuances of the lyrics which are in Tamil and Telugu.
    I don't think gurus bother about the style. They teach what they have been taught. Don't try any individual style without the basic training. In Darpana, a student does a minimum of five years before the arangetram. And we are very strict!

    Wishing you the best
    Amma (as I am called)

Jan 19, 2008

Dear Ms. Sarabhai
I am a resident of Nasik, Maharashtra. I had my Arangetram ceremony in Oct 2006 in Nasik under the tutelage of Mala Robins. I am also learning Odissi since July 2007. I wanted to know about the festivals where I can perform without anyone's reference or influence. I have decided I will never work on references. I would prefer performing at places where the procedure is transparent and by democratic motions. I really need your guidance.

Best regards
Ketaki Deshpande
    Dear Ms. Ketaki Deshpande
    Unfortunately references even by word of mouth are necessary for a budding artist. Try to dance wherever you are invited, even though you think it not quite appropriate! The main point is that people should see you and when they appreciate your work, invitations will come naturally.

    Best of luck
    Sincerely
    Mrinalini V Sarabhai

Jan 10, 2008

Dear Ms. Sarabhai
I am Manu Bansal. I am doing my masters studies in New York. I saw your website while surfing. I am a native of Ahmedabad. I have had always a passion for dancing, whenever I hear music, my feet starts thumping, my mind starts visualizing how would I dance to that music. I always think about dancing, but I don't know how to take that feeling out. I had been performing in my college events since long, but that was for fun. I want to explore more of my dancing side, but I really don't know where and how to start. I don't even know what can I do sitting in New York.

Thanks and regards
Manu
    Dear Manu Bansal
    You can learn dancing in New York and I suggest you meet the dancer Uttara Asha Coorlawala Ph.D., Adj. Prof. Theatre Film and Dance, Long Island University (uacoorlawa@aol.com). Otherwise take lesson in Spanish dancing which is full of rhythm and good fun! There are good teachers in New York.

    Good luck
    Mrinalini V Sarabhai