BENGALURU: She guides the students, steering their movements with the sound of her voice and a gentle push with her hand. They take some time to understand the dance movements. But with a lot of rigorous practice, they learn the nuances of Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form.
Dr Raksha Karthik, Bharatanatyam exponent, has been teaching this classical art form to the specially abled and to the visually impaired for the last 10 years.
“It is passion and patience which drives me to teach them. Time and dedication play a very important role. They need more time to learn. Hence, one has to be very patient, take it slow and make them feel that dance is indeed very easy and they too can dance like most of us, if practised well,” says Raksha.
What method does she follow to teach the visually challenged, for, dance is essentially a visual art form? How do they learn the steps? Navigate the space? Hold their balance?
Raksha says she uses the ‘touch and feel method’ to teach them. “When I have to teach them to sit in an ‘aramandi pose’ (the half-sit position), the starting position of Bharatanatyam, I will have to hold the ankle, tell them they have to hold the position and help them mentally create an image about how they are standing. I believe once they start imagining, they will be able to perform better,” she says.
Agrees Gangamma, who is visually challenged. “I started learning Bharatanatyam in 2010. Initially, Raksha used to teach us to perform to devotional songs because they were easy to grasp. Then we slowly moved to Kolata (traditional folk dance), which was a bit difficult. Speaking of Bharatanatyam, while learning a particular step, I would touch her feet repeatedly to understand how a particular pose should be. Then I would try standing in a similar way and she would correct it. I won a gold medal in a national-level dance competition in Delhi,” she says.
Preparing them to perform on stage is no easy task. Raksha says, “It starts from teaching them about the concept of stage and making them understand that they can fall off the stage if they miss out a single step. This requires a lot of practice. Each step counts. Once they perfect taking right steps at the right pace and distance, I go ahead and teach them dance.”
Earlier, Raksha used to go to Samarthanam Trust, Enable Trust and Sai Trust to teach them Bharatanatyam. Now, the students come to her organisation before a stage performance. The chief of Sai Trust, who is visually impaired, is her student too.
Raksha recalls one of her favourite students Manjappa, a visually impaired boy, who gave a gold medal-winning performance at the National Youth Festival at Mangaluru. “I performed with Manjappa a few years ago. We performed Thillana - a fast-paced dance. Throughout the performance, not even for a fraction of a second, did he lose his balance or miss a step. The sync was so perfect that we came back home winning hearts and of course the gold medal,” says Raksha.
Raksha started learning Bharatanatyam at the age of six. She says her family members, especially her grandmother, encouraged her to take up Bharatanatyam. “My parents believed that Bharatanatyam lent focus, discipline and time-management skills,” says Raksha.
And balancing career and passion is a tightrope walk. For, Raksha juggles between her roles of a mother, doctor and a Bharatanatyam dancer. She is a dental surgeon by profession.