CHENNAI:"Intrinsic and integral," is how performer, choreographer, and researcher Rekha Tandon describes the connection between dance and yoga. She also believes that it hasn’t been embraced as an integral component in traditional training. To address and shed light on the background, technique and embodiment of the Odissi dance form, Rekha has authored the book titled, ‘Dance as Yoga’, and will be in conversation with city-based contemporary dancer and choreographer Preethi Athreya as part of a book discussion curated by Prakriti foundation, today.
Dance and yoga belong to a common tradition of ‘Sadhana’ in India. “It’s an active engagement with working on your own body and mind to arrive at greater happiness, clarity, and fulfillment. In the context of dance and yoga, keeping this connection is also the most direct way to excellence,” shares the danseuse, who is the artistic director and co-founder of Dance Routes.
“In the mid-1980s, when I was fairly new to Odissi, I got interested in the connection between Odisha temple sculpture and Odissi dance, and through that, yogic philosophy. Kapila Vatsyayan was somebody I would see often in New Delhi, so exploring her books and writings began early, which eventually led to doing a PhD in dance studies,” shares Rekha whose first book ‘Odissi – A dance of sculpture’ was co-authored with Michael Weston. “Dance as Yoga deals with my later work, looking at Odissi through the methods of dance studies,” she explains.
Rekha had started and stopped writing the book several times, ever since she completed her PhD in 2005. It was, however, a knee injury in January 2015, that got her off the studio floor on enforced rest that really allowed her to finish the book. “There is always a silver lining to all happenings. I’ve been involved in yoga for many years now, and one important understanding from it is that the physical body, no matter what, is limited and transient. The process of writing helped me put my ‘body-identity’ into clearer perspective,” she explains.
While most dancers acknowledge the connection between dance and yoga intuitively, she shares that it hasn’t been recognised as an intrinsic and integral component. “In my view, this is already happening. It is just a matter of time before it becomes widespread,” she says and goes on to emphasise that she defines yoga as a process of shifting self-identification, from the physical body (of flesh and matter), to the awareness of the body (witnessing a consciousness/’sakshi’), in the space of dance practice. “That is the theme of the book in the context of Odissi but, it has applications to all our classical dance forms as they are all based on the same understanding of the body,” she elucidates.
With more western styles making their way up into the dance movement, classical art forms seem to be threatened and not given much importance to, by youngsters. She comments, “The right exposure at the right age is very important and this can be addressed in many ways, to tackle the situation. Chennai is a very special city where classical dance and music is visible and thriving. But generally, these arts need an entry point before they can be appreciated and enjoyed fully.”
All her ‘Gurus’ including SN Jena, Madhavi Mudgal, Trinath Maharana and Kelucharan Mohapatra have contributed in the making of the book. “Everyone who supported my studies at Laban, especially my mother and later Michael, whom I married (who has also looked after the administration of Dance routes), has made it possible for me write the book,” she shares.
She hopes that the book deepens the appreciation of the cultural legacy which these art forms represent. “Though the art forms date back to several centuries, there is an immediate relevance to our present time as well,” she adds.
(Rekha Tandon will be in conversation with Preethi Athreya today. For details, call 66848403)