Thursday, July 12, 2007

My First Class - Introduction of Adavu

It was a rainy day. Rain, as they say is a carrier of prosperity. Little did I realise that day, this rain would prosper my dance life!
My first Bharathantyam teacher's name was Ms.Subhadra. She was conducting classes in a small garage. I was hardly 7 years old then.. but still that first day is etched in my memory. She made me hold some gestures in the hand (Gestures are patterns made by fingers.. remember the shadow stories on the wall?) and taught me few steps. I did as I was told, and lo! I was certified "learnable" :)
To be very frank, I didn't even know what I was doing. To me, dance class was fun.. there were lot more girls of my age and we would laugh and dance (learn) together.
Saturdays were more fun, she used to teach us Kolata, or some other folk-dance which was really enjoyable as it was to be done as a group.
Thank you Subhadra miss, for sowing the first seeds of dance in me. If your classes were not that fun, I am not sure I would have continued :)
As a Bharathanatyam disciple, I first learnt STEPS. The initial steps use only legs; no hand or neck movements. These "steps" in technical lingo are called as "Adavus". There are 64 basic adavus, which can be categorised under 9 heads
  1. ThattAdavu - Stamping on the ground with your complete feet. Starts with one beat each with your left and right leg, then continues with 2 each, 3, 4 , 5, 6 and 7.
  2. NaatAdavu - The complexity starts now, these adavus are a combination of heel beats, complete feet beet and toe beats!
  3. PakkAdavu - The dancer starts "moving" with these steps; Moving towards sides, front or back while doing the Adavus.
  4. KuditthamettAdavu - This one is a combination of a small upward movement and then a normal beat on the ground.
  5. MandiAdavu - Now the dancer starts using his/her knees. This is the most difficult part for a young student. The adavus make the knees slide on the ground, or hit the ground with the knees (it's not as dangerous as it sounds.. it's a small slide and a slight hit). After few steps the knees ache badly... and also it's an effort to get up from the kneel-down position. Ah! How many times I have been scolded for not getting up gracefully ...he..hee...
  6. SarikkalAdavu - The merry-go round starts now :) The dancer is first introduced to making circles. Incidentally, in Kathak form of dance, this is the the-most-important part. I have heard that students are made to just practice circular steps for hours! Their heads must be reeling after that ;-)
  7. UthpluthaAdavu - The jumps start here, the interesting part is not the jump, but the "balance" after the jump :). The complexity reaches it's heights when you have to do a circle in the air as you jump....
  8. ThattumettAdavu - The the most complicated of adavus in terms of technicality. These adavus are programmed for a specific number of beats and it will be a combination of 2,3,4,5,6,7 beats per leg.
  9. TheermanaAdavu - The "final" ones. These are not only the final adavus, but it is like a full stop in an English sentence. i.e The words are combination of other 8 steps and full stop is this adavu. Every small piece of dance is supposed to end with this adavu.

It takes a fresh dancer atleast 2 years to completely master all these Adavus to perfection.

The initial dance class days are physically tiring, every nerve of your leg aches and it's difficult to even walk properly. Hence it is advised that a person takes to dance at an early age when the body is more flexible and the energy levels are also high. The later you start, the more difficult it gets.

With the mention of leg pain, I invariably remember my Pati (Grandmother), she suffered from arthritis and I used to press her legs in the night almost everyday before sleeping. But the days I had dance class, she used to do that for me :-)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What is Dance?

Technically, Dance is just movement of your limbs. I will try to refine the definition. Dance is an artistic form of communication. Dance is when you move your hands and legs to the tune of something. Even walking is a kind of dance step.

When we start to know about any topic, the first thing we look for is a book. Like there is Barrons for GRE, Let us C - Yashwant Kanitkar for C programming, Complete reference for Java.... there is Natya Shastra for Indian Classical Dance. This one book encapsulates everything about dance, drama, music. This book was originally written by Bharatha Muni in Sanskrit. There are now lots of interpretations of this book available in the market.

There are 7 major forms of dance. They are

  1. Bharathanatyam
  2. Kathak
  3. Kathakali
  4. Kuchupudi
  5. Mohini Attam
  6. Manipuri
  7. Oddissi

There are lots of other dance forms, but it is beleived that they are interpretations of one of these "major" forms.

My expertise (if I can call that) is limited to Bharathanatyam. Though I have learnt a little Kathak and Mohiniattam as well. So this blog will concentrate mainly on Bharathanatyam and my life associated with it.

I was 7 when I was introduced to this wonderful world of dance! Thank you amma, for making me do this. All my relatives were saying to my mom " Why do you have to make her learn dance? Atleast if she learns to sing she can get good grooms!". As if the sole intention of learning an art form is to get a good groom! My mom is an artist (carnatic classical musician), and she knew the value of art.

She made me join dance class, veena class and of course she herself used to teach me to sing. She was not imposing too many things on me.. she just wanted to know what I would be "actually" interested in. Little was she to know that her darling daughter would be interested in everything :)

Coming back to the main question: What is dance?

Dance is:

  • A rhythemic movement.
  • An artistic expression.
  • When you can depict a complete story with just few hand and leg movements.
  • When you get into another character completely... body and soul.
  • Entertainment with a message.