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Janaki Rangarajan's maiden workshop in Bangalore
- Sumangala V Varun

July 12, 2017

Dancer and choreographer Dr. Janaki Rangarajan conducted her first workshop in Bangalore between the 5th and 9th of July. Organized by Guru Padma Hemanth, the workshop held under the auspices of Sangeeth Bharathi Institute of Arts, Vijaynagar, was educative and highly interactive. It was held in two sessions; an intermediate batch and a senior batch.

It witnessed participation from enthusiastic dancers starting from the age of 13. Some dance students had travelled from cities like Udupi and Belgaum for the experience of learning under Janaki. The school and college-going dancers opted to skip their classes either partially (in the case of local dancers) or entirely (in the case of those who had come down from other cities) to attend the workshop.

Janaki gave us a glimpse into the world of karanas and charis in the items that she taught. She taught a kriti on Ardhanareeshwara (a Dikshithar composition in Kumudakriya), and a Paras thillana (a Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar composition) to the intermediate batch, and a Swarajathi varnam in roopaka talam in Hussaini ragam to the senior batch.The items were brimming with Janaki's trademark style of graceful leaps and high level energy. She said that she had not choreographed the items yet, and created the pieces as she taught us. "You all are my inspiration," she declared generously, as she took pauses to choreograph.

Emphasis on originality: Janaki was very particular that the students retain their style, and insisted that everyone stick to the adavus of their style. She was keen that the dancers think and not merely repeat the steps in rote. "Dance is not just physical, it involves the brain also," she said. She guided us and gave us suggestions on how to execute the abhinaya, but eventually left the movements and interpretations to us.

Aramandi: To those who wanted to know how to improve their aramandi, Janaki recommended the butterfly strokes movement to help open up the pelvis.

Thought-provoking discussions: Janaki spent a lot of time after the sessions, sharing her wisdom with us and patiently answering questions. "Being technically sound is expected of you, but you must infuse your personality in your dance to make you stand apart from the rest," said Janaki, who is known globally for her unique style of dancing. She kept insisting on being original as she said, "Be inspired by all good dancers that you see, but create your own path." A fiercely passionate feminist, she spoke on the importance of speaking up. "Let your voice be heard, speak up," she said. She also admitted that the path was not easy, and insisted that anyone considering a professional dance career should have a solid educational base to fall back on.

Sumangala V Varun is a dancer and a freelance writer from Bangalore.