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Dancing for Body and Brain
by Vasumathi Badrinathan

Nov 2000

A multi-hued artiste, Vasumathi has always been deeply inclined towards the arts right from a very young age. Vasumathi has been involved in various research work on music and dance and often she presents papers in various national & international music/dance seminars/conferences. A proficient classical Carnatic musician for more than two decades, she has toured extensively in Europe and Asia Pacific countries and has given several performances and lecture-demonstrations in France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Singapore and Thailand. Besides music, Vasumathi is also a talented choreographer and Bharatanatyam dancer under the able guidance of one of India's most revered and celebrated gurus, Sri. T. K. Mahalingam Pillai. The Sur-Singar Samsad awarded the title of "Singara-Mani" for her proficiency in dance. Vasumathi's institute - SuviBadra Institute of Indian Art & Culture is dedicated to enhance and improve the awareness of Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam dance.

Life today has become excessively fast. Speed has become the password of the day. Tending to one's profession and traveling to work and back leaves little time for anything else. This is the cycle that goes on day after day till it gets etched in monotony. When the newness of it wears off, the mechanical process weaves on, like a machine set to work. To add to it, modern life is accompanied by its sinister, inseparable companion - tensions. Beset, suppressed and afflicted by mental worries that eventually take their toll on the physique. It is not uncommon to find many who end up as nervous wrecks.

Just as a machine needs oiling and the body requires replenishing, the mind too, needs nourishing to help it live and thrive. It needs a vent, an outlet to let out fumes, an inlet to absorb refreshing elements. Therefore the busier you are, the more important it is to give the mind some repose. And there comes the role of hobbies. It could be just about anything that puts your thinking and your senses at work with a difference. With me dancing entered early in life. I did not choose, being too young then to make a conscious choice, but was initiated into it. Then the liking developed, grew, took inspiration and blossomed.

Today it is a passion, zealously guarded. The reasons for this are many: primarily it is the realization of the aptitude towards the art form. Secondly, committed practice coupled with sustained interest. And then of course, encouragement and appreciation - the invaluable food for growth.

"All art", as Kahlil Gibran put it, "is one step from the visually known to the unknown". More so with the classical arts.

Indian classical dances are essentially a rendition of devotion, not without philosophical allusions. Each individual system stems from the seven classical styles and embodies a whole spiritual force. It is nothing but a doctrine of enlightenment. The fervor that is in our music, its distinctive spiritual flavor is simultaneously pleasurable and calming. There is some force in the depths of our arts that makes one think, ponder, go within oneself to meditate. It offers a tranquility, a serenity in which one loses oneself. Momentarily one is freed from bondages and tensions. A quiet and pacifying sense of peace takes over.

Dance does not fail to work on you. What Indian poets wrote in rapture, what glory the temple sculptures reveal, is what a student of dance must experience.

The music that forms a part of dance is in itself so rich in meaning that it can't fail to move you. The rhythmic nuances are so varied that they hold you in awe. The rapturous sublimation that the earlier creators and builders of this art went through is not difficult to visualize. This is the charm that dance, or for that matter any classical art exercises on you. It gets into you, wakes up dormant interests, kindles them till the feeling rises heady in you. You realize potential you yourself were unaware of. When you dance you do not have to be the enraptured nayika , the heroine - the emotions get the better of you, till the dancer and the character merge to become one. If this can happen then the goal of the art is realized in you and there already, is ‘one step' towards Gibran's ‘unknown' known. And is this not a healthy channel for the mind to flow!

The inculcation of an art form makes one more receptive, sensitive. When dancing, the artiste more than often becomes the heroine. It is not uncommon to find songs with similes that liken a maiden to the radiant moon, eye brows arched like a bow, and a smile that would put the spring to shame! The awareness of such beauty and the practice of enacting it, makes one more responsive altogether to beauty when met within in any form. An artiste would be more capable at perceiving and appreciating the graceful flow in a painting, the finesse in a sculpture, the lyrical beauty of a verse, than a layman would. The artiste imbibes in his/her own way the meaning of this beauty perceived and is free to give it form, through his/her own interpretation.

Dancing is the veritable manifestation of grace. Grace that infuses itself in dance, follows otherwise too. Life itself gradually becomes a picture in grace.

Dance in itself is a lesson in confidence. The basic posture is one that is upright and straight, exuding confidence. When initiated in childhood itself, the child grows up, imbibing this stance and bearing of faith in oneself. Abhinaya, the expressive aspect of dance, wakens up the creativity. Often, the dancer is called upon to express the intangible in visual terms. This is nothing but the realizing and sharpening of creative abilities.

Truly, the benefits of dance are manifold. It can be mastered merely as a technique - that in itself is satisfying. But all the more satisfying if one sought to understand the spiritual depth within. Therein rests the unique and uplifting quality of the classical arts. They are the soothing salve for the spirit, the universal elixir.

The words of the poet Bhartruhari seem therefore to make much sense: "A man not versed in the arts of literature, music and art is a veritable animal without the tail and the horns". That is an indication of the sense of fulfillment that the arts bring into you.

Dance creates changes not only in the mind, but in the physical being too. The results are far reaching. Watch your body grow and remain trim; watch grace seep into you, watch yourself feel fresher, healthier, glowing with spirit and life, watch yourself become a wholesome synthesis of all these. Being just a connoisseur in itself yields pleasure. Being an active doer does more.

Explore it and see for yourself!

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