From classical to contemporary

Published: 15th June 2013 12:18 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th June 2013 12:18 PM   |  A+A-


Anita Ratnam belongs to a dynamic generation of dance artistes who enrich India’s dance culture with an eclectic world view. She started her training in Bharatanatyam and later learnt Mohiniattam. A multifaceted  persona, Ratnam is not only a dancer- choreographer but she is also into television and social activism. Apart from being acclaimed worldwide for her performances, she is also credited with creating Arangham dance group, a performing art foundation which is creating waves across the country.

The dance connect

From classical training I expanded my body vocabulary and my muscle memory. It is a very important aspect which many times we don’t discuss. This is what the body remembers the most for doing it the longest time. My muscle memory belongs to Bharatnatyam, Mohiniattam and Kathakali and then martial art. I learnt yoga when I was seven. So I used classical dance at the starting point as a frame of a canvas. There are two kinds of dance - modern or neo classical or dance theater. Today I just know one kind and that is just DANCE. 

Contemporary dancer

In India we don’t have an independent system of contemporary dance. That is yet to develop. We had Uday Shankar at one time and a few others. But that was not enough. The main problem is how to train young people in contemporary dance. Classical dance has a set up. It has all the items and parampara, so it is easier to start with the classical dance training. Then move on to contemporary.

For the youth

Today’s youth are very impatient. They always crave for the wow factor. They like contemporary since it has so much energy and they can whistle during the performance which they can’t do for classical dance. Young people don’t have the time and patience to watch classical dance as the dance forms require a certain amount of araam...calmness in the body and soul.

Bollywood, an identity

It is one face of the many faces of India. In the 50s, 60s and 70s classical dance was the cultural face of India. When Nehruji or Radhakrishnanji went on international visits, they took a classical dance and music group with them. But all that has changed. I feel sad that the importance of dance and classical arts in India has defiantly been sidelined.

In context of Odisha

Odisha is doing a fantastic job culturally.  The Tourism Department is doing a great job, which is more than my state Tamil Nadu. Odisha is hosting so many dance festivals and inviting artistes. The state has fantastic textiles,  art, craft, architecture, folk music, classical music and tribal traditions. Everything is so intense in the state.

Experiments with Tai-chi

Tai chi is related to complete silence. In the silence you have to listen to your breath. In classical dance there is always a music and rhythm. But in Tai-chi, it is always you.

Message through dance

I am always trying to populate my dance with interesting women. So I portray interesting aspects of women in my performances. I have addressed women related issues in some of my works.

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