Perhaps there is something about Vilasini Natyam. It could be the strong abhinaya that mesmerises the audience and transports them into a different world altogether or the feeling of liberation that the dancer expresses through the art form. And doing justice to every bit of this traditional dance, which is deeply rooted with the culture of Andhra Pradesh is the Vilasini Natyam exponent Dr Yashoda Thakore.
How it all began
She was six, when she was first introduced to Kuchipudi and 14 years later, seeing Swapna Sundari perform Vilasini Natyam drove her to learn the dance form. A Hyderabadi, who is currently teaching Vilasini Natyam to about 12 kids at her Rinda Saranya Academy, Yashoda says, “When you are performing on the stage, you lose the connect with yourself and you are transported to the world of kalavanthulu (devadasi) altogether. There is nothing fake and all you can think of is the dance. People take years to master the technique,” explains Yashoda, a student of Padmabhushan awardee Swapna Sundari.
Though currently there is much being said about Kalavanthulu in society, the whole idea of performing Vilasini Natyam still looks like a process of ‘breaking stereotypes’. “That’s because of the wide range of physical movements and emotions addressed in the form. There is no monotony. The depiction of the songs touch on feelings that are a part of every person’s sensitivity but are not visited often. Probably evolution of thought process itself is the reason,” Yashoda expresses.
Performing in the city recently, Yashoda Thakore stepped away from traditional choreography a bit, and included a few moves from Nrttaratnavali in a rhythmic pattern. Organised by the Anandapriya Foundation, the event also saw the book launch of Nrttaratnavali, a treatise on classical dance. The book is a Sanskrit to English translation by dance historian Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao and Dr Thakore herself. “The 13th Century author, Jayasenapati’s Sanskrit text Nrttaratnavali is a comprehensive discussion on classical dance forms prevalent during the Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva’s reign. The book is considered as a literal bridge between Natya Shastra and Abhinaya Darpana. It is a valuable reference to students of classical dance,” she explained.
'Women are strong'
Not limiting Vilasini Natya to just an art form, Yashoda says, “The abhinaya to padams and javalis in Vilasini Natyam is in itself symbolic of a certain freedom of thought, feeling and expression of the woman. The courtesans never aimed at conveying any message, but the training in the form liberates the dancer from so many inhibitions. Knowledge of this is empowering. What is very touching is that the audience too go through this process of awareness and confidence building. The woman is strong, yet docile, shy yet expressive.”
Book on Kaivalya
Yashoda has to her credit, a doctoral thesis on 'The Interrelationship between Yoga and Indian Classical Dance with Special Emphasis on Kuchipudi.' Taking this thought further she is now writing a book titled Kaivalya, a book on yoga and Indian classical dance.