(Chintan wrote this for a student who was doing academic research work on dance.)
Bharatanatyam for me is looking at things beyond their actual appearance. I consider it as a medium of finding a metaphor in every event of our life. Though being an art form, it has deeper roots of spiritual upliftment, for that matter all the classical forms are meant for that purpose. Finding my way through learning a varnam or padam, I have always encountered that no matter what the “pada-artha” of the lines be, it always has a metaphorical meaning linked to it. My life, after learning this chapter from the art form, has gained a second nature of linking dance, or say metaphor, to all the events I come across.
Moreover, looking at the aesthetics of Bharatanatyam, it always mesmerizes me that even wearing a small circular shaped head-gear called “Chandra” has a whole different meaning other than just the beautification. Also my major attraction towards the art form lies in the geometry that one can clearly see during a recital of any item from the Bharatanatyam repertoire. Moreover the structure formation that a dancer forms on stage and a basic pattern of the movements in all the adavus (basic steps) is also a thing that is noticeable. Considering one more aspect of the spiritual link that this art form has, is that, the typical Bharatanatyam repertoire is inspired by the structural formation of a temple and also the evolution of the bhakta towards bhakti. Not going into much detail about the formations and the repertoire, I would conclude that the art form has captivated me by its aesthetic and spiritual beauty.
As far as being a male classical dancer is concerned, yes, initially I thought of this as a crucial task as I considered the acceptance from the society, as it is not very normal for a young Indian boy to take such art forms that are majorly female dominated. But after encountering certain beautiful male dancers from Chennai and Bombay during my visit to the cities for certain dance festivals, my views regarding the acceptance were more enhanced. More male dancers are now accepting the art form as their full time profession and are very well accepted by the dance critics and well as the society. Though, the acceptance from the society will always remain an ambiguous one. As most of them from the society consider the art form meant only for females and just ignore the details and aesthetics behind it, which is not gender biased. Though the ratio of male dancers is reducing, the acceptance level has increased much noticeably. I hope the students of the coming generation take up these dance forms by understanding the values behind it and not just learn them to add one more milestone into their profiles.
Student at Rasadhwani