Workshop by Shankar Kandasamy
- Radhika Ramanujan

January 30, 2015

Shankar Kandasamy is one of the talented and accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer gurus of this generation. Though he resides in Malaysia, India and its culture is embedded deep inside him. Recently, I attended his dance workshop or as he rightly calls it, “Nritya Satsang.” Why use the word “workshop” for such a beautiful experience of teaching and sharing knowledge of this art form.

This was organized by VRC Academy of Music and Dance and Ananya Kalaniketana in Bengaluru from January 7th to 11th, a wonderful start for the New Year 2015. Shankar comes across as a very warm person, devoted to his art form, someone who has imbibed and is enriched by Indian scriptures and culture. His anecdotes reveal his immense knowledge about various scriptures like Srimad Ramanyanam, Srimad Bhagawatham or the Bharatha. He enumerated various excerpts from these epics and the influence these have on us. His impeccable laya gnanam, his deep satwik emotions and abundant energy and passion speak volumes about his practice and sadhana of the art form.  He has a very keen eye for detail – be it simple samapaadam or the complex theermanams or the bhakti emotions of the guru he was describing in his teachings.

A bunch of young and not so old dancers learnt “Sanskriti Vandana” – a thodaya mangalam format that pays obeisance to Guru, Gita, Ganga and Gayatri. In this piece, he has incorporated crisp jathis and a small sanchari bhava to highlight episodes in the Kurukshetra battlefield while depicting Gita…The verses to depict Ganga are taken from Gangastakam and the movements of Shiva capturing Ganga in his hair locks has been choreographed beautifully. Shankar repeatedly made us practice this movement to ensure each one of us got it right.

He taught some interesting korvais to adapt into a thillana, along with the pushpanjali Sanskriti Vandana. Three hour learning sessions though grueling were indeed a wholesome learning experience. All through the workshop, he had inputs on the angashudham, deep aramandis, perfect lines, alignment of our bodies, eye movements, energy behind every adavu and to have control over our body. Years of practice and teaching have made him a keen observer and all these tips for sure help upcoming dancers. He personally taught us on all 5 days during which he gave us helpful tips to practice and perform. This helped us absorb the finer aspects and nuances of what was being taught.

These kinds of interactions are not just about learning an item, but an opportunity to see and interact with the artist – to learn about his experiences, his dance journey, his preparation and his discipline in the art form. We need to take a step back and watch these artistes from close quarters as this reaffirms our path and we get enriched by such experiences.