Ananda Shankar Jayant on Natyarambha

February 25, 2017

“Our future will be technology driven... we will need to embrace it,” said PM Modi recently.
Inspired by the digital dream of our Prime Minister, dancer, choreographer, and scholar Ananda Shankar Jayant, conceived and produced Natyarambha that was launched on 22nd January 2017 in Hyderabad, by celebrated dancer Dr. Sonal Mansingh and BVR Mohan Reddy,  Executive Chairman, Cyient. 

Ananda Shankar Jayant talks about Natyarambha (www.natyarambha.com)

Congratulations on launching Natyarambha.  What is it all about?   
Natyarambha is Shankarananda Kalakshetra’s digital arts education initiative. It is a web based application to help in the practice of Bharatanatyam adavus  -  a detailed and interactive Bharatanatyam practice app that enables practitioners and students, practice the basics of Bharatanatyam, a digital connect  between the guru and the shishya, the teacher and the student, thereby bridging classroom training under a teacher and personal home rehearsals.

How did this idea come about?
Like all good ideas, Natyarambha came one morning when Jayant and I were sipping filter coffee! October 2012...that was when the word app was buzzing across sectors and products, and it got me thinking could this idea work for dance practice? Can dance also ride the tech wave? 

As a classical dancer, practice has been a constant companion in my life. Practice is also the one word I use most as a teacher of Bharatanatyam, for both the young student in training and the established performer, need to commit to regular, immersive and extensive practice. Learning from a guru is paramount in any performing art. Having learnt my own dance basics from stalwart gurus, and at Kalakshetra, I believe the role of the guru in arts is an absolute necessity. And yet in today’s fast paced lifestyles, formal training in Bharatanatyam by the teacher is only feasible for a few hours a week, making practice at home by the student an imperative essential. Many students find this difficult for want of guidance at home, leading to delayed learning or more often - even unlearning and loss of interest

And it got me thinking... How can we inspire a young student to practice at home, to hone talent and training into perfecting the basic grammar of the style? For it is this early constant working and training of one’s body into the movement technique of a particular dance style, that enables young learners to move from technique and grammar toward grace and beauty. The body does need to toe the line – pun intended! And that can only come with 3 words - practice, practice and some more practice.  

Today’s children or for that matter even us – we wake up to breathe, live and sleep surrounded and immersed by technology. Our access to performing arts too is now driven by technology... It is our many devices that we turn to, to catch a video, learn something new, or even catch the masters! Our arts intake and sharing is now more device and web driven than the sharing at the sabha canteen that many of us have been weaned on. Technology facilitates and mediates arts in more ways than we can imagine.

And so, eager to facilitate an engaging and exciting practice dance at home option and bridge the gap between classroom training and home rehearsals, we – my senior student and faculty  member Sneha Magapu, and I - brain stormed. Sneha, also being, a senior software professional, threw up a host of ideas, and slowly the project took shape as we conceived Natyarambha as a first of its kind Bharatanatyam practice digital option for perfecting the basics of the style. 

Who is Natyarambha intended for?
Natyarambha is an easy tool that helps both beginners to practice as well as being a powerful   aid for professionals and mature dancers to polish and perfect basic technique and grammar  of the essential basics of Bharatanatyam, anytime , anywhere. I am also getting feedback from many women in the professional workspace, who are finding Natyarambha the perfect tool to practice and build stamina, when they choose to come back to dance, after a break of many years. Natyarambha is also a ready reference tool for young teachers of Bharatanatyam, to refresh their early learning, getting the mnemonics right, etc.

Can one learn Bharatanatyam from this website?   
Natyarambha strongly recommends that learning happens only from a teacher or a guru. It aims to bring technology to Bharatanatyam home practice and is not meant to be a substitute for classroom training. Natyarambha compliments classroom training and provides an easy to use digital referencing to enable practice at home.

How does a Bharatanatyam teacher use this website?   
Apart from being a useful tool for students, Natyarambha is a simple tool for Bharatanatyam teachers in the following ways:
a. Serves as standard guidance for the basic coursework for your classes.
b. Allows you to create your own practice routines for your class that you could share with your students.
c. Helps students perfect the basics, even as it lets the teacher focus on creativity.

Will Natyarambha be useful to a parent whose child is a student of Bharatanatyam?   
If your child goes to a Bharatanatyam class and struggles to practice at home or doesn’t practice at all, you know the answer already. With detailed guidance and readymade routines, Natyarambha is designed to make practice at home easy and fun. As a parent, you can easily monitor your child's practice sessions, even if you don’t know the technical details of Bharatanatyam.

Which style of Bharatanatyam does Natyarambha follow?   
It follows the pedagogy of the traditional Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam.

How can dancers of styles other than the Kalakshetra pedagogy use Natyarambha?
The adavus of Bharatanatyam are more or less followed similarly across the spectrum of styles, albeit with minor differences. However the mnemonics of the adavus is same across styles. Hence if you find the video presentation of the adavus different from the style you have been taught, all you would need to do is to go to settings and switch off the ‘Video’ option. The mnemonics and instrumental music (which too can be switched on or off) provided for each adavu, will continue to play and help in your practice. What will be constant is the adavu chollu, nattuvangam and mridangam and these are common across styles. 

Simply put, if you find a lot of deviation from what you are familiar with, our suggestion is to switch off the videos and just use audio as guidance. You may find the ‘Learn more’ section with detailed stick drawings and descriptions of the steps and the mnemonics useful.

How is Natyarambha different from DVDs? 
It is interactive, accessible across devices, with options to create personalised practice routines that can be created and shared.

What do you mean by ‘creating your own routines’?
With Natyarambha, we aim to make Bharatanatyam practice at home easy and fun. Sign-up and subscribe to www.natyarambha.com and use the ‘Practice’ option. You could either use one of the default practice routines that we have put together for you, or create your own routine. To do so, go to ‘Practice’ and click on ‘Create your own practice routine.’ Give a name and a suitable description as you like, select which speeds you wish to add in the steps, choose the adavus and hit submit. Your routine is ready!

Which means, you can string together, a set of your favourite adavus, or your teacher can string together adavus that she/he thinks you need to work on, customise in what speed you could practice them in and you have a predetermined practice routine ready! If you think you are bored with this routine and want to create another one, you could go ahead and delete the whole routine as well.

And yes... it is the days of sharing... so go ahead and share your choice routine with your friends from the dance class!

Is Natyarambha to be downloaded?
No, Natyarambha is based on an annual subscription model. This way it is accessible across all your devices, even your smart TV, and yes, all upgrades that happen will be accessible during the period of the subscription.  

Does one need to be connected to the internet or Wi-Fi to use Natyarambha?   
It is a contemporary online Bharatanatyam practice application. Hence the answer is Yes, you need to be connected to the internet. We suggest you connect to a Wi-Fi connection so that the videos can play without buffering issues. If you are using a low bandwidth connection, we suggest you switch off video and use only audio.

Which devices can Natyarambha run on?   
Natyarambha runs on a web browser. So it can run on pretty much any of your devices - laptops, tablets, mobiles. Use your favourite browser. We have given due diligence in testing across a variety of popular devices and browsers. But please feel free to report any issues that you might be facing with using Natyarambha on your device. We will fix it soon!
Tested browsers - Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer.
Tested devices - iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 6s, iPhone 5s, Popular Android phones (Samsung Galaxy series)

What is the difference between the free and the premium versions of Natyarambha?
The Free Trial version offers access to three chapters of adavus, three Natyarambha practice routines and possibility of creating one personalised practice routine, while the Premium option is available after subscription, and provides complete access to all chapters, all Natyarambha routines and unlimited personal practice routine options.

What is the subscription?
As of now we have an Introductory Offer valid up to 31st March 2017, of Rs.2500 and US$35 for the Annual Subscription, which will increase after the expiry of the introductory  offer.

Who is part of Team Natyarambha?
It has been produced and created by Shankarananda Kalakshetra, along with a wonderful team of artistic, design and technical team of young professionals. Senior software professional and Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher, my student Sneha Magapu, heading Project Natyarambha, has enabled a traditional dance form ride the technology wave, by synergising her unique skill set of a software professional and a Bharatanatyam dancer.

The design and drawings are by my long time associate Pratima Sagar, while my student Aditi Nigam shared her stick drawings for the ‘Learn More’ options. And of course, a tech team lead by Sneha Magapu that delivered our vision, and a smart editorial and testing team.

Contact Ananda: ananda.jayant@gmail.com












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