CHENNAI: At 22, Chennai girl Harinie Jeevitha has accomplished wonders in Bharatanatyam. The dancer and choreographer is a disciple of Sheela Unnikrishnan of Sri Devi Nrithyalaya, and has received many accolades and awards including the Bal Shree title from National Bal Bhavan, in 2009. And recently, the Pothys Young Achievers award as well.
“My mother enrolled me in dance classes when I was six. Once I started learning, it became an important part of my life,” says the literature graduate who completed her masters in Bharatanatyam at Tamil University, Thanjavur.
Harinie is considered a leading proponent of the Melattur style in Bharatanatyam, which was developed largely out of the Devadasi traditions and Melattur Bhagavata Mela by Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer (1900-1980). “Melattur style of Bharatanatyam has a lot of Bhakti elements, and the abhinayam is slightly more dramatised than other forms,” she explains, adding that there are also rhythm oriented movements. “This is because Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer was a Devi upasaka and a mridanga vidwan. He created musically sound rhythmic pieces.”
Speaking of styles, she says that Bharatanatyam dancers don’t restrict themselves in terms of style. “We tend to develop our own style, especially younger dancers today are more open to learning,” she say, and adds that she is still discovering and exploring her own style. “I think the discovering never really stops. Each day gives you a whole new perspective.”
She recalls her days of learning dance under her guru Sheela Unnikrishnan. “She expects perfection from all of us, be it a beginner or a professional. She treats everyone equally, expecting commitment and dedication from the student,” she says, calling her a role model for her dedication to the art and to the school.
Commenting on the approach to learning Bharatnatyam, she says it has changed completely over the years. “When I was learning, the place was slower. We could devote a lot of time to the art, and were not in a hurry to learn and perform. But these days, people want to learn more quickly and perform soon. You cannot learn overnight and perform the next day. It is necessary to learn and understand it over time,” she asserts.
Harinie has performed in major festivals in India and has also displayed her talent in many cultural capitals of the world. During her schooling, handling academics was a challenge. “I remember during my board exams, I returned from a programme in Muscat just two days before the exam! That was very hard but I still managed to come school first in two subjects,” she laughs.
Dance is now a major part of her life, and she says that there can be no fixed times for practice. “I am with dance physically and mentally at all times. It doesn’t matter if I’m on stage performing, or dancing in class, Dance is an expression of joy and all that is beautiful and divine,” she says.
Harinie will be performing a 90-minute Rama Natakam, taking a few songs from Arunachala Kavi’s musical depiction of the Ramayana. Choreographed by her guru, she will be performing an invocatory keerthanam, and kavuthuvam and the famous padham yaaro ivar yaro along with a concluding thillana.
Harinie will perform today at the Rama Natakam from 6.45 pm at Krishna Gana Sabha, T Nagar. Tickets available at the venue. For details call: 9840835825