‘Of all performing arts, dance, with its rhythmic patterns, draws its essence from nature itself. If observed carefully, one will find rhythm in natural phenomena such as the murmur of waves, the whisper of leaves and the plaintive notes of the wind,” maintains eminent author and Bharatanatyam dancer Saroja Vaidynathan, founder-director Ganesa Natyalaya, Delhi.
Rightfully decorated with the Padma Shri, Kalailmamani award and the Delhi State Award among others, Saroja shares her knowledge and experience through her books such as The Science of Bharatanãtyam, Bharatnatyam — In Depth Study and Karnataka Sangeetham, besides some albums. In Chandigarh with her troupe for a performance at the ongoing 4th Chandigarh National Crafts Mela, she shares her views about the art with HT City.
Do you feel the need of softening influences in the rigid code of conduct for the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam?
“Yes, I believe that any art tradition should not be treated as a closed-door institution; it must be enriched with the best, borrowed from other similar art realms. Like others, I too have introduced innovative changes like glamour and new socio-cultural thematic contents in my compositions to meet the demands of changing mindsets of the new generation. However, the dignity that governs the principles of Bharatanatyam has been retained in my work.”
As a proponent of the guru-shishya tradition, what do you think has changed from the time that you were a disciple?
“You see, Bharatanatyam has elements of spirituality, science and discipline; I do not always burden them with the sense of authority. But, my disciples observe all requisites—respect and reverence—while the form has gone from being ‘shashta anga pranam’ to ‘hello hi’. Even my disciple, Kasiyet from Kazakhistan, follows all norms.”
Do you think Bharatnataym has more following in western countries and the southern part of India, compared to the northern states, where Kathak still dominates?
“That is not true. So many acclaimed gurus from other dance forms run their centers from New Delhi and foreign countries with no impact on the popularity of Bharatanatyam. However, other
dance forms such as Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri and Mohiniattam are also gaining ground, since every dance has its own aura and liking. There are more takers for Salsa, which is easy to learn. As a guru, I am associated with 15 foreign centers, including USA, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Canada, China, Japan and others.”
How do you compare Indian classical dance with the European ballet?
“Indian dancing is woven with an emotional appeal, thought and philosophy, with scope for improvisation. European ballets on the other hand are rich in technical virtuosity.”
And what about the future of Bharatanatyam?
“The future of Bharatanatyam is brighter now compared to the past because of the awakening among youngsters in India and abroad."