A Report 

Dance mania in December  

Pose and counter pose, Yoga therapy for dancers - Dr. Krishna Raman 
Dec 20, 2004 Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai  
Text & photos: Lalitha Venkat 

December 29, 2004

The 24th Natya Kala Conference presented by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha and convened by gurus Narasimhachari and Vasanthalakshmi, was titled Pibare Natya Rasam meaning, ‘relish the nectar of Natya’. Dedicated to late Odissi guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, it took place from December 14 to 20.  

The concluding day started with a brief speech by guru Narasimhachari. Relating some anecdotes, he spoke of how on one occasion, his wife Vasantalakshmi danced after a Manipuri performer. Some of the mirrors had fallen off the Manipuri dancer’s skirt, but oblivious of her bleeding feet, Vasantalakshmi had danced on! He next presented a 50 minute long video film Natya Veda, which they had produced in two months time. Based on the Natya Sastra, it was made in 1989 on invitation from the Central Production Centre (New Delhi) to choreograph a dance drama involving as many classical dance styles as possible. Choreographed by the Narasimhacharis, it was directed by Kamalini Dutt (Director Archives – Prasar Bharati). It was a fitting finale to the conference to see all dance forms in this film. If only the print had been of a better quality… 

The final speaker of the conference was Dr. Krishna Raman, referred to popularly as the dancer’s doctor! He is well known for his integration of western medicine with yoga and has 18 years of clinical practice to his credit. He gave a fine video presentation with images, charts and suggested exercises, interspersed with explanations. 

Long back, I had read this comment by Uttara Coorlawala. “The condition of dance floors is appalling in India.  Dancing in these theatres, the body’s shock absorption system becomes worn out.” Now I get an opportunity to use it! When one performs / practices on a concrete floor, the body absorbs all the shocks, but on a wooden floor, the floor absorbs the impact. Dr. Raman appealed to all organizers to convert performance spaces into wooden floors and make it safe for dancers to perform. He appealed to dancers to alter home surfaces - make their rehearsal spaces safe by having wooden flooring or at least lay a wooden plank on the concrete floor. Another option is to spread something like yoga mats where one will not slip. Dancer Urmila Sathyanarayana has already put his advice into practice.  

The common mistakes dancers make is have extended rehearsals, too many rehearsals, no proper warm-ups, no proper sleep and insufficient rest to name a few. Dr. Raman advises one dance free day in the week, sufficient sleep, proper diet, rejuvenating body massage and some gym workouts, which are beneficial.  

 “Health comes first, then art,” says Dr. Raman. “Do your exercises first, then dance. Asanas actually open cardiac blocks according to a recent study. Pranayama is the finest tool for heart and lungs. It’s an introvert action. The sound should just be audible to your ears. Children under 14 should not be taught pranayama. They will look aged prematurely.” 

What about dance related injuries? 
Good posture is essential for standing, sitting, dancing and sleeping. What is discomfort today could become a disease tomorrow. The first thing one must do is, “Don’t ignore warning signs.” One must learn to differentiate between healthy pain and unhealthy pain. Yoga is not only preventive, it’s a counter and a curator. Be perceptive – if the problem is in the body or in the mind. Keep your mind under control, so your body is under control. 
A few minutes of warm-up exercises before a performance/rehearsal are important, as are a few minutes warm-down after a performance/rehearsal. As little as even 5 minutes is recommended. Dr. Raman called dancer Urmila Sathyanarayana on stage to demonstrate a few of them. Many questions were asked at the end of the lec-dem and the answers were simple, and easy to follow. Everyone present, old and young, dancers, dance gurus and general public, came away richer for the experience.  

As he has been doing for every year of the Natya Kala Conference since its inception, scholar V A K Ranga Rao, announced his choice of the best lec-dem. His criteria - a lec-dem should be useful not only to dancers, but to one and all. Dr. Krishna Raman’s won hands down