On October 15th I will be presenting a solo Bharatanatyam dance recital in Salzach Halle in Laufen, Germany. It will go on for no longer than 25 minutes, and can go almost utterly unnoticed in comparison to real Bharatanatyam performances that last about 1.5 hours consisting of an entire Margam (or, more fashionably, a set of elaborate compositions), live music, and your own Guru doing a striking Nattuvangam. I will be presenting two or three short pieces - an Alarippu, set to Tisra, A Kriti on the Ananda Tandava of Shiva, and a Deveranama on Krishna. Music will be played from a CD, and none of the compositions are mine.
I am no Bharatanatyam dancer. I have danced it all my life, fulfilled a variety of exams in it, performed it numerous times, but in a matter of definition, I am not a professional Bharatanatyam dancer. I do not earn my living from it, I do not perform it often (enough). Just to put things in perspective.
Bharatanatyam, for me is like a parent you disagree with, but no matter how strongly you argue with them and turn to the other side, they will quietly stay there. In your life. Patiently, waiting for you to calm down and come back. It is a rather private relationship.
This is my first Bharatanatyam solo since I do not recall how long a time, and my first public Bharatanatyam performance at all in the last 3 years. Needless to say, I am nervous about it. But in a way, this performance and the rehearsal period reflects light upon how far I have come in my journey in relationship to dance, and my very roots of it.
I am witnessing my fifth rather glorious autumn in Salzburg, out of which I have been teaching Bharatanatyam to non-Indians for three and a half years. And what I have learnt out of it is almost invisible in a way that a snake loses its skin and grows new ones. Losing the "Indianness" out of the "Indian" things about me and my work has been the most remarkable aspect of all of it. Teaching people to dance stories that mean nothing to them emotionally or logically, working with bodies that are very different from the bodies back "home", applying aesthetics of an entirely different culture onto something completely different, all of which while making sure you sustain their interest in engaging with this oddity. I do not presume to believe that even I entirely understand the transition that I went through with this experience.
What I definitely do know is that it helped me put this art form entirely out of its context and renew my personal meaning and understanding of it. Of course, one cannot take the India out of Bharatanatyam and vice versa, but to understand it in a bigger context, (for me) to find its relevance in a world that seems to move and change at an insane pace, is nothing short of a blessing. It somehow allows me to make sense of myself in the bigger picture. Like I said, rather private a relationship.
By the way, the performance starts at 19:00 at Salzach Halle in Laufen, right across the border from Salzburg. Any of you that is close by and have an evening to spare (it is even a Saturday!), hold remote interests in cultural events or Weltladen, do drop by. It is free, plus there will be awesome food afterwards besides good company.