So many girls I meet want to be dancers. Everyone wants to know how to do it; wants to know how to become a dancer. It really is not a secret. There isn’t any trick, code, or complex answer to this. It’s just practice. When people see me perform, they see the icing on the cake or lets say ‘the tip of the iceberg’. They miss the hours in the studio; the incessant training. I don’t think I have taken more than two days away from training in the last 18 years. Dance is life and life is dance. I am unable to separate the two.A�

In college and my late teens, I cannot even begin to explain the rigor and determination with which I worked. Leading up to the conservatory I had 3 years at home when I just danced. When all the learning is under one roof, it becomes much easier to commit. I had to search for this learning and travel from from one class to another. (Bangalore didna��t have so much traffic then!! ) When you have to go from one place to another it’s often easy to miss some things because you’re tired or lazy. I didn’t miss anything. Ever! When my students miss class now, I find it very difficult to empathize. I try in all honesty to understand their reasons. But I never missed class. My teachers would know the stubbornness with which I approached training, but it is almost like I was losing a part of me when I missed class. I was concerned about the tiny things that they may say, that I won’t be privy to. Maybe they would explain something about using an arm or turning, and I would miss out on knowing what it was if I wasna��t present. Missing class, agitated me. I just never did it.A�

The three years that I just danced, between high school and college (thanks to my parents) I think my teachers were almost fed up with me. I’m trying to remember my schedule. It was something like this. Yoga, at 6:00 am with Arun sir. If I didn’t have Bharatanatyam immediately after, I stayed back and did two classes of yoga sometimes. Then I went to either Sundari Akka’s house or Narmada Aunty’s house. Sometime’s I went first to Sundari Akka’s house first and then Narmada Aunty’s house after; for Karanas and then Bharatanatyam. I went to Ballet 3 times a week with Yana. I used to have private lessons with her in addition. Then I went to the gym in the evening, or to Callanetics class or another ballet class. If Ballet was not there in the afternoon, I stayed back in Narmada Aunty’s house for as long as she would have me. 3, pm, 4, pm, 5 ? Basically till she kicked me out. Sometimes I finished Ballet and went back to Narmada Aunty’s house. Whenever I was done with classes, or if I had any time available at all, I would be in a studio by myself, practicing repeatedly everything that I had learned that day or the previous day. I have vivid memories of falling asleep on the floor in the hall in my house, just to get a wink of sleep before waking up and finishing practice again. I used to stay awake to finish practice. Even if I got home at 9 pm, I sometimes stayed up till 12 or 1 to finish practicing whatever I was meant to practice that day.

Those three years prepared me for life at the conservatory. We had Somatics ( pilates or Alexander technique) everyday. One year I worked it out that I could take two pilates classes back to black because I felt I wasn’t getting enough. We had ballet technique everyday, Modern technique everyday, then we had either styles (jazz, tap, African) or Partnering or some other movement class. We moved continuously and intensely for about 6 hours. This was the minimum number of hours a day. In addition to this basic 6 hrs, we had choreography, or pedagogy, or Laban, classes in which we moved, but not as intensely. We had rehearsals in the afternoons around 3 pm after all these classes. I used to go to the gym before class in the mornings or at night because I decided that I had to do cardio at least 3 times a week. I ran 7 miles every Sunday. I also went about 2 hours early to school because I needed to practice my Bharatanatyam at least 3 times a week. (I also went to the studio over the weekends to practice Bharatanatyam. I obsessively repeated whatever I knew a million times) Summers in India, I would go back to the same schedule as before, living more and more in Narmada Aunty’s house.A�

A�Dance became the only life I had, in college. Dance has been my life ever since. Once you enter the professional world of dance, self-motivation becomes the key to keep training. It is essential to constantly challenge yourself at every point. The hours you invest in yourself directly result in increasing your eloquence as an artist. I have to keep a schedule and keep my body working, moving and training even when I travel. It is even more important to keep it going when I travel because I waste a lot of time sitting around in airports and on flights.A�

The practice never ends. Rehearsals and training are like fresh air to a dancer. You rejuvenate, replenish and grow stronger with every rehearsal and every minute you spend being aware of your movement process. So keep practicing. Thats the secret. a�?Practice, practice, practicea�?A�

 

Picture Credit: Waseem Khan

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11 responses to “Practice”

  1. Rajashree says:

    True! Practice makes the person to be perfect and you’re just an inspiration to me.. Even if I couldn’t come to you for the classes, am practicing every day now, which I missed it while am coming to classes.. Without any doubt, you’re a very good guru and being an example, inspiration to so many people! Stay blessed

  2. DEVYANI says:

    Wow… This is so inspiring mam… I mean , I also want to become bharatnatyam dancer. And this article gave me such motivation for practice… That is the key! Atlnd thank you that you are sharing your backstage life and the ice which is in the see… That is actually imp. To what it takes to become a great performer…! 💐👍☺

  3. Dr. Thraya Mohan says:

    I’m your huge admirer. The finesse in your art is speechless. That of course comes from your sheer dedication. The blend of yoga and bharatnatyam and ballet, your techniques, your expressions are awesome.
    God bless

  4. Saranya Sekar says:

    Wow…you motivated me in my passion singing and performance..I was wondering if I need something more to my schedule… finally it’s pratising in versatility. Thank you so much Rukmini

  5. Madhura Hublikar says:

    Thank you for respond
    It’s the sweat that turns into gold. You’ll be the inspiration for many coming generations. I’ll be glad to see you performing today at NCPA, Mumbai.

  6. Valuthi says:

    Very Inspiring. Thanks for sharing your grit you always hadtowards practice and learning. It once again proves there is no short cut to excellence.

  7. Vijay says:

    What we generally see of all great artistes on stage – 1% inspiration, 1% aspiration, and 98% perspiration. The 24 x 7 incessant practice that goes into presenting great art !

  8. S says:

    “We do not rise to the level of our hopes we fall to the level of our training”.

  9. Anita says:

    Dear Rukmini,

    Thank you for starting the blog! I love reading it. I had a question. What does when do when we keep going to class, but the teacher does not teach us? And sometimes makes us do other work? Is it better to leave such a class and practice on our own. But what about technique and corrections?

    • rukmini says:

      Depends on whether the “other work” is actually a form of learning. Sometimes, learning is not only in class. And finally if you feel stagnant, find other places to learn. Practicing on your own is difficult when you are still trying to find your way in a classical form.

  10. Rs says:

    You are an inspiration.

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