We all have the capacity to move, the capacity for imagination. We often lose this connect with our bodies as we grow up. Children do this, tirelessly. We see them connected to the floor, sliding, falling, running, jumping with little to no effort. They do this repeatedly with poise, ease and grace.
Why do we lose this connect with our bodies? Why do we lose this ability to imagine and express ourselves? I have often wondered this in my years as a dancer. I am especially keen on exploring this idea of just retaining children’s ability to move. As dance teachers, we think of training and correcting children. To help them do the “right” thing. In reality, they don’t need training, they need guidance. While imparting a classical style, this is crucial. Classical forms have specific aesthetics, ideas of movement and body shapes. How do we teach them this, while maintaining the purity of movement in their bodies? How do we keep their imaginations alive while telling them what to imagine?
This idea of pedagogy is something that I have been working on for the last three years. My children performed a two weeks ago. I’m happy , proud, joyous. At the same time, I’m constantly trying to evaluate whether their training is balanced, well rounded. Will they grow up and be able to dance in the grocery store with no inhibition? Will they continue to see things around them as possibilities and not as finalities? Will their bodies be open, receptive, free?
In art, there is no right and wrong. There are only choices. Choices that we are at liberty to change. I think this idea helps children with retaining their creativity.This is something I practice with my children. I never say something is wrong. I don’t believe I ever use that word in class. There maybe ” another way, a possibility that doesn’t hurt your shoulders, a manner in which they will protect their knees, but no movement is ever wrong” , I also try to say that ” in bharatanatyam we make this choice” . Meaning that it isn’t the only choice available. If we are able to retain this ability to imagine when we grow up, our lives will be fuller, more vivid.
I am offering them the vocabulary of bharatanatyam, as a choice of movement. I however don’t want this to close their other opportunities of movement. They don’t need to start erect and hold their arms up in natyarambham to experience movement and to dance. They must continue to fall on the floor, roll, jump, slide, and keep the joy of exploring the possibilities of their bodies while learning a classical style. I want them to see palaces in thin air, believe an orange is a magic ball, talk to imaginary friends, have real fights with non -existent people and be able to look out the window and see everything that is not physically there.
I’m looking forward to the many years with my children.