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* Dance: The Bharata Natyam
by Vasumathi Badrinathan
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Excessive pace has become the password of the day. Tending to one's profession and family seems to leave little time to attend to ourselves.

Just as a machine needs oiling, the body and the mind require replenishing, nourishing activities in order to thrive. Such an activity could be anything that puts your senses and intellect to work--with a difference.

Dancing entered my life early. I did not choose, being too young then to make a conscious choice, but the liking developed, grew, became inspiration, and blossomed. Today it is a passion zealously guarded. The reasons for this are many, but primarily, dancing is an invaluable food for growth. Or, as Kahlil Gibran put it, "All art is one step from the visually known to the unknown."

Indian classical dances are philosophical allusions and renditions of devotion. Each of the seven classical styles embodies a whole spiritual force. It is, in its purest essence, a doctrine of enlightenment. The fervor that is in the music, its distinctively spiritual flavor, is both pleasurable and calming. There is a force in the depths of these arts that makes one think, ponder, go within oneself to meditate. It offers a tranquility, a serenity in which one can first lose and then rediscover the inner core of one's identity.

The music that forms a part of dance is in itself so rich in meaning that it cannot fail to move you. The rhythmic nuances inspire awe. The rapturous sublimation is highly visual. This is the charm that dance, or for that matter any classical art, exercises on you. It gets into you, wakes up dormant interests, kindles them till the feeling rises heady in you. You realise potential you yourself were unaware of. When you dance you are the enraptured nayika , the heroine– the emotions get the better of you, till the dancer and the character merge to become identical. If this can happen then the goal of the art is realised in you and there already, is 'one step' towards Gibran's 'unknown' known.

The inculcation of an art form makes one more receptive, more sensitive. The profound awareness of beauty and the practice of creating it, makes dancers perhaps more capable of perceiving and appreciating the graceful flow in a painting, sculptural finesse, the lyricism of verse. The artist imbibes in his/her own way the meaning of this beauty and is free to give it his or her own form.

An Intimate Dance
"An Intimate Dance" by Patse Hemsley

Dancing is the manifestation of grace, a grace that infuses itself not only in dance but the life it expresses.

Dance is a lesson in confidence, its posture upright and straight. The many movements in dance are defined with particular motives. While all are focused upon the final goal of mastering a technique, they are invigorating, too. While footwork accentuates the grip over rhythm, it can also be understood as an exercise for the feet. So also with varied movements of the minor limbs.

Truly, the benefits of dance are manifold. It can be mastered merely as a technique – that in itself is satisfying. But it is all the more satisfying when one seeks to understand the spiritual depth within. Therein rests the unique and uplifting quality of the classical arts. They are the soothing salve for the spirit, the universal elixir.

Dance creates changes not only in the mind, but in the physical being too; there can be no better exercise that combines both the mind and the body. The results are far-reaching. Watch your body grow and remain trim, watch grace seep into you, watch yourself feel fresher, healthier, glowing with spirit and life, watch yourself become a wholesome synthesis of all your better parts.

The words of the poet Bhartruhari therefore make much sense : "A man not versed in the arts of literature, music and art is a veritable animal without the tail and the horns."

Being just a connoisseur in itself yields pleasure. Being an active doer does more. Explore it and see for yourself!

Vasumathi Badrinathan is a regular contributor to various national and international magazines and newspapers.


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