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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Bharatanatyam’s language fills me with wonderment at the sheer possibility it offers: Malavika Sarukkai

It’s been half a century for her as a dancer. A lifetime with an art form that has changed the way she observes, interacts and engages with people, and the world around her. But Bharatanatyam dancer Malavika Sarukkai stresses that as an artist, she continues to be on a journey of discovery. “I think living a life with dance has made me more responsive, and reflective. Dance has changed me intrinsically,” this Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi recipient tells IANS.

Adding that things are not the same for youngsters just entering this field today as compared to her time, she feels the world as we know it presently is different from what she grew up in. “I think when I started learning dance, it allowed me to have a ‘childhood’, a certain innocence in approach where dance could become a sanctuary. These days, the younger generation is under more pressure. There is immense competition to ‘achieve’. I feel they have less time to pause… to just be with dance.”

Sarukkai has always insisted dance should be considered a language and not looked at it as a repertoire. Bharata Natyam is a style that she learnt from extraordinary gurus who inculcated in her the foundations of this form. However, continued training for over two decades and as she internalized the form, it no longer remained a style but become a language of dance. “This was a momentous step for me as with this discovery I crossed a critical threshold in my understanding of dance. With this clarity, I took ownership of the dance in my being and with this the world of creative explorations opened up.”

She feels internalisation is a word that constantly reminds the serious practitioner of the performing arts that there is more to be done. The process is slow and gradually increases in intensity over the years. “The questions one asks are – how much more can one extend oneself; how much more can one inhabit the dance; how much more can one work on mastering technique? As the saying goes ‘technique disguises the dancer and reveals the dance”. That’s the purpose of internalizing’.”

For her, the language of Bharatanatyam is inexhaustible and inspiring. “It keeps me filled with wonderment at the sheer possibility it offers,” she smiles.

Talk to her about the reaction of purists when she started creating her own pieces, and Sarukkai says the body of work she has created over the last three decades is a celebration of the classical language of dance and its immense possibilities. “These choreographies individual and thematic evolved organically over the years and were presented with conviction and passion. This was convincing testimony for the purists and dance enthusiasts and they soon realized that my journey was path-breaking and which in turn would open up possibilities for the next generation. “

The dancer, who was part of HCL Concerts’ ‘Anubandh – Connectedness’ held recently feels that more corporates need to come forward to support the arts. “The concerts initiative by HCL to build and sustain a resilient performing arts environment is exceptional and their patronage encourages young artists to continue striving toward excellence. All corporates must understand without financial support, artists cannot create an environment of security. Artists give vision to other perspectives of life and must be seen, heard, and acknowledged,” she says.

Sarukkai feels that overall there has not been the necessary uptick in performances and festivals as one expected and in order to nurture a vibrant performing arts scene in society, there needs to be well-organised, curated, financially sustainable programs in place over a period of time. “We need yearly festivals which promote quality events and become part of a calendar of events which in turn sustains the momentum of interest in the viewers. To add to this, classical dance is seen as a form of entertainment often which diminishes the purpose of dance. But…in spite of these confining elements, artists continue to create, to envision. That is the power of dance,” she concludes.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed)

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