Oh to be in Chennai !!
- Deepa Ganesh, Manchester
September 29, 2005
From the moment we landed on July19th, I had to juggle my time from getting new costumes stitched to buying jewellery, fixing the orchestra and juggling with their time, rehearsing, and of course in the middle of all this, actually performing, organising photo sessions, video recordings, doing research for the next production, recording and editing, preparing for a Lec-dem... Wow! What a trip! And in the middle of all this, I managed to do a course in Yoga Mandiram, brushed up my movements with Lakshman sir, attended classes with Kalanidhi maami, had discussions with T S P maama (T S Parthasarathy), did research with M H Gopalakrishnan... and I barely managed to squeeze in a visit to the beach, which is only about 10 minutes away from my house!! All I have to do is think back to the flurry of activities packed into my India visit, and a wave of fatigue washes over me... but in the end, it was worth it!
For the past one year, Vaishnavi has been passionately practising for her program in Madras with able support from Nivedita. I have warned her in great detail how the gurus and audience in India give no concessions. Twenty years before, I remember Lakshman sir telling a parent of a 7 year old, "If she cannot sit in aramandi because she is a child, no problem. Let her wait till she can. There is no hurry for her to dance!!"
Having been used to the UK audience where Indian dance is exotic and 'children' performing Indian dance is divine, Vaishnavi and Nivedita though initially excited about their Chennai performance, were now kind of getting anxious...
The entire family geared up for the event on July 31st and by God's grace the evening was blessed. It was rewarding to see how the audience appreciated the children for their commitment and hard work, and remaining close to their roots and tradition. It is a priority we stick to for our own good. After going out of India, we realise how lucky we are to be Indians.
Although our Tanjavur trip was only for two days, it etched a lasting impression in our tight schedule. The grand Brihadeeswarar temple, the beautiful Tanjore paintings in traditional families, the magnificent Saraswati Mahal Library, Sri Perumal's illustrating insight into palm leaf manuscripts, the gorgeous art gallery and of course the alluring palace shop, were all treasures that absolutely could not be missed. It was interesting to note how in olden days they wrote with a "penknife" which had a nail on one end and a knife on the other end to curve the edges of the manuscripts to protect them. It was interesting to note how they are consciously taking steps to safeguard and nourish this art of reading manuscripts, deciphering its contents and actually the art of writing it as well.
We were honored to meet the Prince of Tanjavur on the first evening. While the children thought that they were going to meet a prince as they see in Tamil movies, they were very surprised to see a very pragmatic, charismatic person in 'simple elegant veshti'! I can never forget the extremely beautiful gilded, individually bordered, calligraphied Constitution of India kept in his table. Suddenly the dry paras from my history text concerning Indian citizenship became pieces of art carefully carved by passionate leaders in 1950!
The next day, we met Prof. Ramanujam, a senior children's theatre director whose personality and knowledge immediately introduces him beyond the illustrious career he had served! What a wonderful artiste passionately in love with theatre and children! People like him motivate and guide the next generation by their mere existence.
We visited the imposing South Zone Cultural Center's head quarters and its impressive Mahabaratha mandapam under construction. The Friday evening's performance was indeed a fitting finale to our wonderful Tanjavur visit. What could be more wonderful than dancing to Papanasam Sivan's "Kaana Vendaamo" against the backdrop of the imposing gopuram!!
We left for Chennai the same night of Aug 12th, to be in time for the Bharat Kalachar program on Saturday and a Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan program on Sunday. It was a special weekend as I danced with my two daughters. Dancing in Chennai after 12 years, I realised I have grown to be a person with conscious respect to my audience and a concept of an evening's performance rather than just going up on stage and dancing the items I have learnt as a 15 year old. It was also rewarding to see the halls pretty full for each of the six programs that we did.
The next week saw me prepare for my Natyarangam solo, "Shakti" on 20th and my lec - dem on Sakhi on 21st for which T S Parthasarathy maama and Kalanidhi maami completely mentored me. After fervently preparing for the Chennai rasikas within two weeks, I sighed as audience and Kalanidhi mami nodded in approval. In fact that morning, I also had some last minute tips from Chandrashekar sir!! This is the pleasure of being in Chennai. You just have to be there to absorb it all... . And you can never do enough justice. For this visit, I was supported by the "Go See Go Be" scheme by Dance Northwest, UK which aims in helping artistes to just be where things are happening. Which better place in the world than Chennai for a Bharatanatyam dancer to be in!
This is the very reason why I recorded the music for my new production Aarambh in Chennai. How could I miss out on the wonderful orchestra who has stood by me through all the performances? Out of nowhere, in absolute enthusiasm, was born "Margam," Papanasam Rukmani Ramani's recording of extremely beautiful songs for Bharatanatyam, for which I did the choreography and Nattuvangam.
In the middle of all this activity, it was nice to see Anita Ratnam's "Seven Graces" and Sheejith Nambiar's energetic solo. Before I realized it, it was the end of the recording and editing of Aarambh and time to catch the flight back to London!!
Dancing in India
- Vaishnavi Ganesh
Sunday 31st July was one of the most exciting days in my life - the day Nivedita and I performed Bharatanatyam in Chennai.
After having a good morning, we set off to the Music Academy. Gayatri aunty was there to do our make up. It was our first two hour program and I was nervous, excited, happy and scared - all at the same time, and the weight on my head was getting heavier... before I realised, I was ready. My sister and I started walking around a chair telling ourselves, "calm down, calm down, calm down... .."
It was time to go on stage and before I knew it, it was already the varnam. So far it had gone very well. Everybody kept clapping and that was very encouraging. It was all over so quickly that it was soon mangalam!
The people gathered in front of the stage. My sister and I were busy shaking hands with friends and strangers with one hand, and trying to balance a pile of presents on the other. It was a lovely experience, especially hearing Lakshman sir and YGP paatti speak.
On August 12th, we went to Thanjavur to dance in Brihadeeswarar temple (the Big Temple). It was so different, a marvelous experience to dance before the magnificent gopuram. Guess what? An adult even asked my little sister of seven for her autograph!! Our programs at Bharat Kalachar and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan were not too tiring as we danced with our mother. I also knew what to do, so I was not frightened. I liked Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan program the most.
I will never forget this tour that had so many wonderful memories.
Based in Manchester, Deepa Ganesh, a student of Adyar Lakshman and Kalanidhi Narayanan, is the Artistic Director of Upasana.
9 year old Vaishnavi Ganesh is a student and daughter of Deepa Ganesh. Vaishnavi and her sister Nivedita toured south India with their mother in August with the help of Dance Northwest's "Go See Go Be Scheme."