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Workshop on abhinaya by Dr. Kanak Rele
- Vijay Shanker

June 22, 2017

Veteran Mohiniattam dancer and dance educationist Dr. Kanak Rele, conducted a workshop on "abhinaya in dance" in Bangalore from May 1st to 3rd at Poornima Gururaja's Kala Sindhu academy of dance. Kanak Rele has conducted workshops in Mumbai and Pune and there have been several requests and an increasing number of dancers keen to attend the workshop to improve the intensity of their performance. Earlier teachers had great knowledge of the "sastras" and were adept about the varied facets of classical dances. Today, unfortunately some teachers do not have sound knowledge of the "sastras," hence their analysis of the characterization is sketchy. I had the privilege of attending the workshop and I feel that Kanak Rele's scintillating contribution is the need of the hour.

Besides the in-depth analysis of the varied types of abhinaya, Kanak Rele demonstrated the usage of Patra-padhati (characterization), dristi-bheda (eye movements), bhava (expressions) and rasa-anubhava (emotion experience). Interpreting extracts from 'Gatha Saptasati' (Maharashtrian Prakrit), Swati Tirunal's Ramayana Kirtanam and other expressional numbers like javalis, the students are given the lyrics and music is also provided, so that they re-learn and interpret it for any performance in their own style, without changing the basic emotion or context.

Kanak Rele vividly demonstrated as to how the dancer should concentrate completely on the character analysis with meticulous concern for every movement, glance and expression. For instance, as to how Seeta would react on knowing about the appearance of a Brahmin outside her cottage, her mental stability and emotions of fear and anxiety, how she steps out of the cottage after initial hesitation, the reaction of the Brahman and ultimately as to how he takes her away and how and when she realizes that he is none other than Ravana himself.

She says, "While I have received several requests for workshops on abhinaya, I have selected only a few and students attending should not be more than thirty, otherwise it would be difficult to interact with all of them. In my workshop it is essential that they understand the character fully, otherwise they would not be able to do justice to the interpretation and the representation." She was ably assisted by her disciple Saji Menon.

The workshop was attended by established dancers like Guru B Banumati, Vyjayanti Kashi, her daughter Prateeksha and Poornima Gururaja. Guru Banumati said, "It is a lifetime experience to learn from a veteran like Kanakben, my students and I have benefited immensely." Vyjayanti Kashi felt, "The workshop is not meant for beginners, you need to be grounded as a dancer with serious approach to meticulous detail of character analysis and interpretation." For Poornima Gururaja, "watching Kanakben perform takes you on a flight of emotional intensity and excellence, forgetting everything else in life, creating a mesmerizing impact always."

Vijay Shanker is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.