As classical artists we are expected to carry with us a certain precision in our technique. We must master a certain number of physical skills and have a sound understanding of the aesthetic of the technique. We must constantly hone our skills of performance. The basic expectation of a classical artist, in terms of skill is very high. In Bharatanatyam we have the effervescent “araimandi” looming over our dancing personality constantly. We need to have control over rhythm, have a certain postural clarity, emotive presence etc. As Bharatanatyam dancers, (or dancers of any specific classical, traditional form) there is an unspoken expectation of getting things ‘right’. The correctness and accuracy of executing technique becomes a very important part of both the creation process as well as the training and performance process. I agree that this is very necessary. Mastery over the essential skills in any classical form is needed. I however feel that while constantly trying to do this we must not forget that we are in a creative field! We must remember to ‘play’, to ‘create’, to ‘have fun’ !A�

We cannot be so consumed by technique that we forget to dance. If we are unable to allow the classical form to move through us organically, it is because we haven’t practiced enough. The more we practice, the freer we will be. The more freedom we have, the more we can ‘play’ and ‘dance’. We certainly are not dancing when we are thinking about where our ‘natyarambham’ should be, how our arms should move or how low we must go to maintain our araimandi. We also are not dancing if we are thinking about how to get through the next piece without falling apart. We only dance when we do not have to think about these things anymore. We need to make these things second nature. Our arms and legs must move to the right place automatically. Rhythm must be a part of our being. The movement aesthetic must flow through us effortlessly. Once this is accomplished, we can begin to dance. This is certainly the case with any structured movement technique.A�

Something I hear often from students is that the Bharatanatyam vocabulary doesn’t allow us to ‘flow’, or to ‘play’. I say that it is because it is still finding its way into your bodies. I accept that within a classical vocabulary, freedom of movement is something that is achieved through rigorous training and repetition. This takes time, is difficult, tedious and taxing. I agree.A�

At the same time, finding creativity and playfulness in life is not forbidden! . Nothing prevents us from imitating falling water, or from moving around with no control. No one has told us thatA�allowing music to flow through us or from finding joy in movement is forbidden. Isn’t this what dance is? Our bodies responding to things that inspire movement in us and moving for no apparent reason other than to express an emotion. How many of us find this time to ‘play’ . We call ourselves ‘dancers’. But when is it that we truly dance?A�

If we allow the ‘dance’ in us to die as we grow older, no amount of technique can salvage the loss of the joy of movement. We see children dancing all the time. They express themselves through their bodies organically, freely with no inhibition. As they grow older, age gets in the way of this ‘dancing’. We need to keep the child within us, while refining technique. We often forget why we began dancing and continue on to become technically proficient dancers who have forgotten to ‘play’. Let us remember to really ‘dance’ if we believe ourselves to be dancers. Even if it doesn’t’ happen in the Bharatanatyam vocabulary (yet) that is ok. Use what your body knows to feel and express in whatever way that it wants, without judging it, move freely, openly and discover what your inner voice is capable of.

Try doing this at least once a week and I promise you your world of dance will open up again like you are a child.A�

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7 responses to “Allow yourself time to play”

  1. Midhu Parvathy says:

    It’s beautifully expressed.

  2. So inspiring, makes me want to get up and dance right now!

  3. Poorva says:

    Beautiful! Thank you

  4. Trupti Shetty says:

    You have always been an inspiration & you will continue to be. It is truly said that till the time you yourself don’t enjoy dancing, You can’t expect from the audience to enjoy your performance.

  5. Mallika Chandrashekar says:

    Yesterday for the first time I enjoyed your mesmerizing dance program at the Kapaleeshwar Temple, Mylapore. So divine and awesome. First time saw a dancer with minimal jewels and a distinctly different lovely costume. You literally fly in the air Rukmini. What poise and what expressions of the mind and body!!! Your kali dance movements were outstanding. That swiping movement of your feet with your tongue stretched out, the Maadu Meykkum Kanne, Shankarabharanam and the last dance – I think you literally wept? What expressions dear! Love you. Sending you warm hugs.

  6. Parita Vashi says:

    It is one thing to feel these thoughts running through your mind and a whole different thing to first, catch the thought in its honesty and enormity, and second, to rightly “express it”.
    You do it so well! this is a kathak dancer relating to the fear that in search of the perfect technique i will loose the “aanand” in “kala”
    please keep sharing these beautiful, powerful thoughts. I will always want to know more.
    Lots of love.

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