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Dance and detachment
- Ramaa Venugopalan

July 6, 2021

“I just don’t put that much pressure on myself any more, I'm okay with that. I’m okay with not winning Grand Slams,” Kyrgios said. “I’m okay with just enjoying myself, putting on a show. Not everyone can be a (Roger) Federer or (Novak) Djokovic. These are once-in-a-decade athletes that inspire millions of people, they're just gods.”

This guy is something. Maverick and a bit more, but this statement has been spinning in my head for a couple of days now. It's a lot to say on a grand slam tour. As we were discussing this with my 13 year old Suputra, who is training in competitive tennis, I could not help but draw a parallel to the dance world.

Imagine, any top notch dancer ever saying something like this, when they are already on the high ladder. The focus is on enjoying the sport or the art with all the love and joy one can have, and never worry a bit about the returns in terms of top notch performance opportunities or fame.

If I observe the evolution or process of a career growth in Bharatanatyam, especially in the past few years, the competition is immense and cut throat. A decade or so back, the scenario was not crowded with over-ambitious dancers wanting to grab all opportunities that the space could ever offer. The pace was slower, less aggressive, not high on PR, and perhaps, interspersed with silence to reflect more.

Things are vastly different now. With the advent of Social Media, everyone is up on their game to make impact and more impact. The momentum and pace with which the rat race is gaining importance, the fact that the generation leaves no stones unturned, are equipped to handle a lot more beyond just “am a good dancer” and are unapologetic about their ambition is in a way a remarkable growth. Yet, the whole concept of how “happy” each dancer is, and how secure each one is to throw it all away with no sense of attachment is a big question.

I have been asking myself this question for a few years now. In a recent phase of my artistic life, I was stuck with certain identities of my own, morals, parameters of perfection, idealism and a stubborn attitude to not budge from my ideologies. Beyond all, I truly believed that if I do not dance, I will die from within me, and I will have no purpose in life.

The past couple of years, in my reflective mode, have rendered all these Ideologies as a moot point. And I certainly did not die because I did not dance. I find the ideologies irrelevant to a large extent and reading these romantic notions associated with dance actually annoys me. Personally.

When the ideologies become meaningless, when the fame and ambitions don't mean much, the quest to find something meaningful in dance begins to sprout. I am no saint nor an evolved being to have arrived magically at an artistic zen place, but I have travelled a bit.

When I read this quote by Nick Kyrgios, amidst his Grand Slam tour, I wondered why, in the pursuit of imparting and learning art, the focus is never happiness or personal fulfillment? It is more to do with excellence - whatever that is, and grabbing on opportunity and never ever letting go of ideologies and the romanticism associated with dance, and of course the cloak of “I am a dancer, hence I am divinity incarnate.”

If one can let it go a bit, then the depth of the dance is far more accessible perhaps.
It is here that dance meets with philosophy or understanding of the self.

Let go, shed it, detach. And set yourself free. Then dance happens maybe!
For now, thank you, Nick Kyrgios!

Ramaa Venugopalan is a performer and teacher of Bharatanatyam from Bangalore, for a little over three decades. 

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