With 45 years of dancing experience to back her, Bangalore-based Padmini Ravi has decided to break the shackles that confined Bharatanatyam to elitist chains. She joins hands with her daughter Laxmi Khanna who has been a dancer herself from the age of four, to start a dance school that gives the next generation of dancers the power to explore the full potential of this art and its million nuances. “Dance is not only a lot of movement, it’s a whole lifestyle,” says Laxmi. She adds, “It is a creative experience that teaches you all elements of performance — from rhythm and music to theatrics. Even how to groom yourself for the stage.”
The duo has chosen to name their school Funky Guru, and for very good reason. Padmini wants to be the kind of guru who imparts a thorough understanding of all aspects of Bharatanatyam. “I will teach them about the history of the dance, transliteration of the Sanskrit lyrics and also show them how universal the Natyashastra is,” says Padmini.
She wants her students to understand the concepts of rhythm and composition well enough to be able to convert prose or poem to an entire piece. “This is a process that teaches the nuts and bolts of the craft. It helps young children learn the art in a manner that is sustainable and not just picked up through rote,” Padmini explains.
According to Padmini and Laxmi, the school will teach “the purest form of Bharatanatyam with no contemporising of the form”. It will be divided into four verticals or areas of focus. One section will focus on trained dancers who are preparing for their Arangetram (a dancer’s first performance) and who want to pursue this as a profession. The second will focus on people who have either learnt it before or who want to learn it now, but more as a passion or hobby. The third vertical will focus on training and educating young children in a comprehensive and wholesome manner.
The fourth section of the training will function as a fitness class that uses dance positions, yoga and certain folk-dance movements to create a workout that treats the overall physical, mental and social well-being of the individual as paramount. “Our workout will not be stressful or time-bound, but rather, calm, easy and fun,” says Padmini who believes that “losing weight is only a by-product of fitness and should never be the main focus”. Padmini and Laxmi will take care of the physical aspect of the dance form, and will also bring a panel of Vedic scholars and experts in the field of philosophy to explain various texts and inculcate an understanding of how to transform Bharatanatyam to a lifestyle. The duo will also branch out its work to the Web and take the music composed by them to rasikas through samples that can be purchased on request. The online music will cater to both the avid and professional dancers who wants to stay updated with new compositions, as well as those who enjoy simply listening to classical tunes in a new avatar during the course of the day.