Sunday, December 15, 2013

Joy of Giving

Dr. Anantani at a lec-dem in Ahmedabad
Until Oct. 26.2113 , ‘Joy of Giving’  held limited  meaning for most of us—to get satisfied by donating charity like food , clothes, books, school fees, etc. to  socially and economically deprived and underprivileged  individuals and wait till next call comes.

Shivangee Vikram, Rasadhwani’s  director, lead dancer and academic counselor made all us experience a different kind of joy through ‘Joy of Giving’ Week, which is organized every year from the 1st to 6th Oct. During this week and weeks beyond, she trained eight underprivileged urban youth in classical dance movements and prepared them to perform in front of a very sensitive and cultured audience on 26th Oct. at the CEE Auditorium, Ahmedabad. They performed on a recorded piece from Pandit Ravishankar’s ‘Chants of India’ album. They shared the evening stage with other 30-35 dancers who have been training as classical dancers since years.

These energetic and hard working youth of urban slums had a unique experience. The exposure to stage and to an appreciative full house was totally new and exciting experience for them.

Thinking of this again and again I sometimes feel, aren’t we all culturally deprived lot too?

- Dr. Uma Anantani


Sunday, December 8, 2013

What I learnt...

(An Argentinian by birth, Claudio Farias is the author of 'Le tango n'est pas une danse' (English: Tango is not a dance) and teaches Spanish and Italian at high school in Marseille. He speaks 12 languages and teaches, among others, Yiddish, Hebrew and Corsican to language enthusiasts in and around Marseille.)

I remember as a young boy at school, we had a program that introduced us to the different civilizations of the world. Among these, we learnt about Indian and Vedic culture. I remember that all of us were very impressed by not only the beauty of art in temples or the sculptures but particularly by the thought process conveyed in the texts. It gave a completely new dimension to our thinking. I felt that although it was an ancient civilization, it was more modern than a lot of concepts of our time. They explained the same things but in a more concrete manner and it was unavoidable to not have them deep-rooted into our heads. We were also introduced to new poets, especially Tagore. I feel they gave a new form to the old spirituality.

After school got over, we wanted to continue learning about India on our own. For this reason, we went to the local bookshops. But the problem was that those stores kept only cliched material about India and its culture. For example, if people wanted to study spiritualism, they would read a book, imitate Indian dressing, wear the bindi and believe that they were on the right path. At that time, I thought this was the right way. We also thought everybody in India was a rishi and was spiritually uplifted. Although the intention was good, now I know that this was such a stupid way of learning. This also formed a very incorrect picture of India, for us and for others. Gradually, whatever I had learned at school got diluted by this blind pursuit of ‘wisdom’ or something like that.

40 years later, when I have started learning Hindi and Sanskrit, I have realised how naive we were. Then, if someone who had just visited India came back with fantastic stories, we were eager and ready to believe whatever they said. There was no choice and we didn’t know any different. One must also understand that we didn’t have the different types of media we have at disposal today. Things have changed. People are travelling more and there is increased interaction between people of different countries and origins. And more importantly, we are not bound by what we formerly imagined. For this reason, we can return to the roots of the culture and really separate ‘Disneyland’ from the real world and the real values of the culture. In school, these same ideas were a little strong for us. Today, these same ideas make sense in a more powerful way;

In my opinion, there are two ways of approaching Indian culture. One is the easier but clich├ęd road forward. The second way requires a serious analysis of the civilization. The danger of taking the easier way is that the final result will not be a reflection of what you study or see but it will be a reflection of you. I opine and counsel not to be simple and fall for the easier way because I consider this was precisely what the old teachers and poets were trying to convey for us to learn.

- Claudio Farias

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Law of Attraction in Dance

(Photo credit: Ravi Tahilramani)
So, one fine day I was just watching the movie "The Secret". The movie deals with some scientific facts related to human mind. It explains the "law of attraction" which means that the human mind has an ability to attract all the thoughts and convert them into reality. Each single thought has a frequency of its own and if a human mind has dedication and complete attraction towards that thought, it can transform to reality.

I have got this habit of relating every fact that I see or read somewhere with dance. So, I thought how does this "law of attraction" work for classical dancers.

It is said that all Indian classical dance forms are mainly practiced for the spiritual upliftment of a dancer. So how does that practically work? We know God as good as the common man knows him. For example, talking about Shiva or say Vishnu, all aspects related to both these lords are all written in our scriptures and everyone must be aware about their presence, their appearance, and the kathas related to them. Then why is a common man not called spiritually uplifted although he knows God the same way we know God? How is our attachment more toward him as compared to the common man?

Every classical dance form has different piece that they practice and perform during their training period. Each such piece is related to a Lord that the dancer describes. Be it a padam, a varnam, a kirtanam or even tillana, it describes the God in one or the other form. Through dance we describe God's beauty, his Leela, his appearance, his contribution to the upbringing of the whole human race and all other aspects.

Here comes the "law of attraction" that I was talking about. While practicing we are taught to feel as if the God is right in front of you and feel his present so that the real Abhinaya can be seen on our face. So even while practicing or while performing, our mind is constantly thinking about the Lord we are describing. So every single moment that we dance or practice we have our Lord in our mind and that’s where we are attracting the God more towards us. A common man will listen/read the stories or kathas about various God and then forget about it. We take those stories a step ahead and describe them through our dance and thus constantly meditate on God through dance. So that’s where our spiritual level gets uplifted.

I am not very sure if this is the real reason why classical dancers are called spiritually uplifted. But I feel this is how it must be working.

- Chintan Patel, student at Rasadhwani