Best foot Forward

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Best foot Forward

Monday, 15 December 2014 | Shrabasti Mallik

Best foot Forward

For Sanddhya V Pureccha, dance is a way of life. She talks to Shrabasti Mallik about the Thanjavur style of Bharatnatyam and its lucid body movements

For Sanddhya V Pureccha it is not enough to learn the nuances of Bharatnatyam for “one has to learn the meaning of every move, every expression and all the philosophy related with it.” She is one of the last pioneers of the Thanjavur style of Bharatanatyam and has been doing everything she can to propagate the teachings of her guru late Acharya Parvati Kumar, who was instrumental in establishing the Thanjavur gharana.

“Thanjavur is a place from where the four Thanjavur quartet established the Bharatanatyam dance form. Before that it was practised during the reign of the Chola’s, Pandya’s and the Bhosale’s. Bharatanatyam started to diminish with the decline of the Bhosale Empire and the dance form travelled to different parts of the state and the style changed. Now, therefore we have the Kalakshetra, the Pandanella and the Thanjavur style,” she explained.

The Thanjavur style is defined by lucid body movements with complete involved expression. “There are no geometrical movements of the Thanjavur style. They are all round and flowing movements,” she added. The danseuse, who was trained in the traditional guru-shishya parampara recalled, “Every bit of knowledge that I earned was through guruji. I completed my graduation and post graduation in Sanskrit and also cleared llB and IAS but this formal education was just for the sake of learning. The knowledge that I imbibed from guruji was far greater and was such that whatever I used to read, I would easily understand.” She believes that it is all because of her dedication and faith in him that she has come so far. “It is the shraddha that I had. People now do not have faith. That is why they catch hold of one thing and leave it the next minute. They say that if you have faith in a stone, even that will melt.” she said.

Her tryst with dance began when Acharya Parvati started narrating Sanskritshlokas from the Bhagvad Gita and natya shashtra to her. “Although it was a little difficult for me to grasp the meaning right in the beginning, I gradually began to understand the meaning of each shloka and learnt the associated dance movements,” she said. Slowly dance became a way of life for her. “It is amazing how much dance teaches you about life — right from innumerous body languages to expressing emotions in multiple ways,” she said. To explain her point she demonstrated different ways to say no — maunam (to stay quiet), kalavilambascha prayanam (to quickly leave the place), bhumi darshanam (to look at the floor), bhrukuti (to frown) and anyamukhivarta (to speak something different).

Every teacher wants to leave behind a rich legacy in hope that it continues in the coming generations. To fulfill her Guruji’s dream, Sanddhya has successfully established Kala Paricchaya, an institution offering graduate degree in performing arts. The danseuse is researching on abhinaya darpanam, which her guru had started. “I have also worked on Natya Shashtra’s Samaa Abhinay, Sangeet Ratnakar’s Karavartana and Sangeet Darpan’s Gativeda,” she pointed out. During her research, she realised how important it is to understand the theory on which the tradition and techniques of the dance were built upon. “I found a big gap between the theoretical tenets and its application into dance practice. Dance students knew the shlokas but they were unaware about how to apply them to the dance,” she said.

For the purpose she had undertaken the mammoth task of approaching a shloka by trying to first interpret the correct meaning of each word followed by determining its connotations. She explained, “It is after many trials and errors and research among different texts that I have been able to come up with the appropriate postures  for the eye, hands and foot movements. Each one of them is specific for a particular word.”

Her latest performance was in reverence to her guru on his second death anniversary. She paid her respect by performing on 24shlokas form the abhinaya darpanam. “The text contains 324 shlokas and it takes three hours when I perform all of them at once,” she said. Along with that she also performed Javali, a traditional dance form practised in the South. “The Javali dance is very expressional and requires a lot of makeup. The songs, on the other hand are very erotic,” she said.

photo Pankaj Kumar

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