Bharatanatyam faces mediocrity

There are one too many dancers and teachers now, says Padmashri Malavika Sarukkai, who is in the city to stage her first group choreography

Published: 24th August 2016 05:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th August 2016 05:25 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU: An acclaimed dancer and choreographer Padmashri Malavika Sarukkai will be presenting her first group choreography in the city. She talks about her performance and her journey with City Express. Excerpts:


Could you please tell us about your latest production Vamatara – To the Light?


Vamatara is about hope. It is about the lotus. They keep recurring in Indian thoughts, philosophy and Indian poetry. The lotus is in the sludge but it grows to the light. It stands for purity. It has many meanings and resonances to it. There are four choreographies - two group and two solo  ones. The lotus motif recurs in every piece.


You have always been a soloist. Why did you decide to go for a group choreography this time?


For many things in life, time has to be right.  One day I woke up and I felt convinced. I was in the right frame of mind. Before we do something, we need to be prepared mentally, physically and psychologically. That thirst to do it has to be there.


Was it challenging?


It was challenging. You need to think different. I might create a movement which might look good on me but not on the other dancer. I also learned a lot because they would ask me hundred questions. They have their own perceptions. They would ask me why we are doing this step and not that. It was a very invigorating experience.


How has your journey in dance so far been like?

After 45 years on stage, the most startling thing at this point is that even when I dance today, at rehearsals or on stage, I discover new things. This is the most special and valuable part of dance for me. It could be a self discovery or something about the movement or the potential of the dance. When I dance, I am still excited. Sometimes my rehearsals are better than concerts.


How was your experience working with Sumantra Ghosal on the documentary The Unseen Sequence - Exploring Bharatanatyam Through the Art of Malavika Sarukkai? He says that he did not have a background in dancing.


Sumantra Goshal is a very intelligent and creative person. He had his own ideas about what he wanted to shoot. I never asked him about the concept. He also did not discuss it with me. He asked me about the pieces I would like to show him. I told him the ones I had in my mind. We never did interviews. We just had conversations. What amazed me when I saw the film was how deeply he had reflected on dance, its history and my creative process. It was a remarkable narrative. It was a completely different experience. 


You have been in arts for about 45 years. Have you see any changes in the dance form?


It is moving, changing and adapting. What has happened though is that, with so many people pursuing it and so many teachers, the quality has fallen. Bharatanatyam faces a fresh threat of mediocrity.  In India, there is no differentiation between the amateurs and the professionals. So when you go for a programme, you have senior professional dancers and amateur dancers who have done just two to three concerts and not serious about dance, performing on the same stage.

They flood the market. They take away opportunities from the others who are serious about dance.  Dance requires so much of investment.There is no stability in this art, professionally. It is a big risk.


What kept you going then?


I took the decision that I wanted to dance when I was 16. I went and told my mother. She loved dance and so, she encouraged me. I did not have much support. I feel it is destiny. Conviction,

passion and faith that see you through.


You will be receiving Natya Kala Acharya Award next year. How do you feel?


It is a big recognition in Chennai. It holds a special significance because of the history of the academy. I feel any award is just a public recognition saying that this person has contributed to the world of dance.

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