NEW DELHI: The arc lights lend a sparkling brightness to the chandra-prabha (moon) and surya-prabha (the sun) ornaments on either side of Bharatanatyam dancer Apoorva Jayaraman’s head. She gets on her toes to make her way to the centre of the stage where the hard edged beam of the spotlight beckons her. Then it dims slightly and Jayaraman’s feet begin to move. Every sound created is a resonance of the assiduity with which she approaches dance.
“The quality of art you present is something you owe yourself, not your audience. Fundamentally, if the art and nothing else obliges you to excel, you are on the right path,” she tells us before she begins rehearsing for her upcoming show at Habitat World, India Habitat Centre.Her movement vocabulary will be presented in traditional margam (structured format). Her favourite piece from the recital is one from the Tamil Sangam literature that exemplifies the emotions of a mother when she has come to learn that her daughter has eloped.
The mother reminisces back to an incident when her daughter, as a little child, is inconsolably upset when a cow feeds on her favourite creeper which she had tended to with her own hands. The mother today registers the irony of life, as she stands in a similar situation, coming to terms with the inevitable separation from the daughter she had so lovingly raised.
“This piece is a stunning example of ancient Indian literature that is incredibly modern in spirit, and timeless,” says the dancer, adding, “I will also be presenting a delicate gem from the Vazhuvoor lineage, an invocatory piece choreographed by my teacher’s teacher Swamimalai Sri Rajaratnam Pillai. The varnam I’ll present is a dynamic choreography of my Guru Smt Priyadarsini Govind, presenting the ‘usual’ nayika languishing in her love for her Lord (Entanine Telupudu Ra, Ragam Khamas, and Composer Subbarama Dikshitar).” To her, the pining nayika is a voice of human aspiration. If viewed as a visual and poetic representation of the quest of the human mind for purpose, this becomes a timeless and strongly relevant concept according to her.
Jayaraman started dancing when she was in kindergarten but started formally training at the age of five. From then to now, her dance education has broadened in scope and strengthened her artistic communication to engage with other conscientious performers and viewers. Behind her stood a women who introduced certain important dancer values that became gospel in matters of her professional endeavours. One such value was when her mother said to her, ‘No audience is too mean to warrant an average effort on your part. In fact, as a matter of example I have seen that a performance which is sincere in intent and uncompromising in effort reaches out to any kind of audience, whether apathetic or ignorant.’
The lines thrum through Jayaraman’s ears every time she reassesses herself. Even with her dance, her introspection is strongly unbiased. The equipoise required for self critique is one that her mother inculcated in her, as a result of which, the dancer has grown to trust her appraisal objectively. “My evaluation is usually anchored in my degree of mental alignment during the performance, the extent to which I have truly enjoyed myself on stage and more recently, also on my ability to be spontaneous, instinctive and in-the-moment,” says the dancer.
Jayaraman’s body has grown to become her most disciplined companion. She understood the need to clear out the weeds of temptation to make it a strong force with will-power, endurance, discipline, persistence and tenacity. “It is not trivial anymore to just slip out of any kind of activity and go right into high power dancing. One definitely becomes more acutely aware of the body, its potential and limitations, and the boundary conditions that need to be satisfied to keep it at the peak of its performance,” she says.
But like every dancer who invests their spirit into their art, she too grapples with concerns over the present environment where quality is coming under the scanner every day. There is no minimum qualification criteria to become a teacher. It encourages mediocrity and can never really result in excellence. “Practically anyone with even sporadic and insouciant training makes for a dance teacher these days. Secondly, we are never taught how to teach. Many of us would benefit from a systematic pedagogy to avoid creating deluded and disempowered dance enthusiasts,” she says.
With a deep breathe she gets back to work. June 14, at 7 pm, Habitat World, India Habitat Centre. Tickets can be collected from the venue.