My journey as a Bharatanatyam dancer started at a young age of five. My mother initiated me into the art form when u was rather young. She believes that art has the power to define a person’s personality, makes them confident and completes them. She never had a chance to learn the art form but she always wanted her daughters to get opportunities where she missed out in life. And so, my journey in dance began.
I enjoyed my classes, and yearned to learn more. In about ten years of learning, I was ready to do my Arangetram, the debut solo recital, which happened to be the turning point in my life. The process of training for the Arangetram made me understand and experience the nuances of learning and performing. Lessons from my Gurus are moments I will cherish forever.
Being on stage is like entering a temple. It is a meditative zone where I can completely be myself and unleash everything that I have, while being controlled by the art form and it's tenets.
This space, the Stage, is what I love and this was the catalyst to my decision of pursuing solo Bharatanatyam seriously.
Every profession has its struggles, and dance is no different. Whether one wants to be an ensemble performing artist, a teacher, a research scholar or a soloist, finding the right path and pursuing it with single-minded devotion is a difficult task. Perhaps, the least lucrative among these paths is being a soloist, but for me, this is the most gratifying thing. It is difficult to get performance opportunities as a soloist because of the classic demand - supply issue. There many dancers, but less opportunities. Then, there is the other major challenge of finances - costumes, jewellery, training, music etc. are all expenses. Initially it isn't easy to balance all this, but with time, focus, hard work and devotion to the art form, it is possible to crack the scene and create a footing.
Education did not take a backseat while I pursued dance. I did my Engineering and PGDBA in Marketing and have worked at MNCs as well as start-ups in various capacities until last year. I continue to work in freelance capacity as a Content Marketer. Work helps me balance the otherwise consuming lifestyle that being an artiste is and also helps me think holistically and outside the box.
Every time I dance on stage or practice, I completely lose myself to the vastness and warmth of this art form. I also enjoy collaborating and creating new work that takes classical art in its purest form to the lay audience and the modern audience of today. My works - Manjari, Sarvasya, Narmada and Poems of Love, bear testimony to this. Collaborating with different musicians to achieve fruition on these productions is an amazing learning experience.
My lead collaborator on all the creative pieces I have done is my husband, Dr. Sharan Subramanian - we conceptualize and script these works together. He is not a dancer, infact he's a musician, but the perspective he brings as a non-dancing viewer is really refreshing and helps me present my concerts better while connecting better with my non-dancing audience.
As performers I think it is also important to revisit our pieces and works over the years. I definitely do this because I would have choreographed a certain piece with certain ideas in mind, but my vision will evolve with time and reworking it helps. My studio is my go-to place for it stimulates my creative cells! But I think inspiration strikes anywhere and everywhere. I don’t have any specific place or favourite venue to perform. I enjoy performing anywhere, whether it’s at a mainstream stage or for an intimate gathering. that have been coming up. Every performance venue is a different experience and each one of them is a learning experience.
The evolution of audiences over the years has been quite interesting. On one hand, I've seen dwindling audiences at classical art concerts, perhaps owing to the large number of concurrent performances that occur in Bangalore. On the other hand, I have also noticed that audiences are keen to understand and appreciating all forms of art. Back in the day, it would be a certain profile of people who would attend and watch classical art, but now we get to see a diverse set of people attend events, more-so at the informal intimate chamber concerts. So, the pattern is rather interesting. As long as we artistes strive to present art aesthetically and I in relevant formats, I don't think classical arts will ever go out of vogue.
Many have asked me - "What’s the most fun part in doing what you do?"
Everything is fun, be it the umpteen hours I spend in practice or the hours just before the performance when I get ready physically, mentally and emotionally. The most interesting part is however, the artistic process where I get to create something new, whether a full-fledged production or just a single piece. From research to script, sourcing lyrics or getting them written, music composition to choreography, investing in your vision and seeing it come alive in front of you is such an amazing process that is fulfilling! You also get to work with such amazing collaborators - musicians, light designers, design executives, tailors etc. The entire process is enriching and elevating and there is so much to learn from it.
As artistes, we experience a wide range of emotions on stage - excitement, inspiration, solace, etc. But to me, being onstage, is nothing short of mediation. It is a process that elevates me and enables me to give something to my audience - whether it is through educating them about things they didn’t know about or giving them a spiritual experience that they have not felt before. I intend to do all I can to give back to the art form that has given me so much. I don't know how at the moment, but I hope time will show me the way. Till then I'll continue my practice!
Edited by Dennis George