KOCHI: Dr Sunanda Nair is very familiar to dance aficionados. An expert in mohiniyattom, she’s the first student in India to have a masters degree in dance from the Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya. She is also the disciple of renowned Mohiniyattom performer Padmabhushan Dr Kanak Rele, who is credited with popularising the dance. Sunanda is currently at Kochi, conducting a three-day workshop called ‘Abhinayalahari’ at Lokadharmi Nadakaveedu, in association with Nripalaya.
“The workshop will focus on abhinaya. That’s one of my traits which is widely appreciated by many teachers and students, especially when I am in Kerala. So, through this workshop, I am focused on imparting my knowledge about the form,” says Sunanda. The exciting part of this workshop is that she will be performing ‘Sathvikam’ on Saturday at 6.30 pm. “Sathvika is the most important part of abhinaya. Wherever we are dancing, we should always understand the sathvika of the performance. So I am planning to make the students understand more about that,” she adds.
Sunanda’s stint with dance started at age six when she began training in bharatanatyam. At the age of 10, she started training in kathakali under Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Warrier. “Though I was born and brought up in Mumbai, I always had a Malayali girl inside me. So I always used to think that even though I am a Malayali, I don’t know how to perform mohiniyattom. Then when I saw Dr Kanak’s performance on television I was instantly attracted to the dance form.
That’s how I reached her. She was the one who advised me to focus on one dance form only. I started practising mohiniyattom around the age of 16, and till now I’ve performed only mohiniyattom on stages.” It’s been about 34 years. Sunanda runs the Srutilaya Institute of Fine Arts in Mumbai; it is a school which trains students in mohiniyattom and bharatanatyam.
She has performed extensively across the world and in national festivals like Khajuraho, Konark, Soorya Parampara, and the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra award festival, to name a few. “All performances have been special. It’s always good when the audience appreciates your performance, especially in foreign countries.” She also asserts that whoever performs mohiniyattom should be loyal to the dance form. “There are many institutions which teach mohiniyattom.
The style or interpretation may vary. All you have to keep in mind is to be loyal to the dance form. Focus only on the dance while you are on stage.”Her future plans include continuing with stage performances all over the world. “Also I would like to open a school in Kerala,” she says. The workshop will conclude on Sunday. For more details, contact 9447414200.