Kuchipudi workshop: Celebrate Dance 2010 Series
- Archana Pidathala
e-mail: archana.pidathala@gmail.com

July 9, 2010

3 days, 12 hours of dancing, 15 dancers - 1 passion bound them all at the Kuchipudi workshop conducted by Shambhavi School of Dance, from the 25th to 27th of June. The Kuchipudi workshop is part of a series of workshops to be held as part of the 'Celebrate Dance 2010' series, of workshops in all classical Indian dance forms, conceptualized and hosted by Guru Vyjayanthi Kashi in response to her receiving the Sangeet Natak Akademi award.

The workshop was structured to teach the participants a few Kuchipudi adavus and jathis, the "Namami Nataraja" sloka, "Ganesha pravesha dharuvu and kauthuvam" and "Samudra Vasane Devi" sloka. The Ganesha pravesha dharavu and kauthuvam had exquisite choreography, intricate jathis and amazing composition. As the mellifluous voice of Vyjayanthi Kashi filled the Shambhavi Dance Theatre, the dancers present were transported into a magical land where only one thing existed - dance, dance and dance!

The ambience of the Shambhavi School of Dance in Kengeri is perfect for dance. Nestled amidst nature and designed aesthetically, it is adorned with statues of Lord Nataraja and photographs of all the great gurus of Kuchipudi - CR Acharyalu, Prahalada Sarma, Korada Narasimha Rao, PVG Krishna Sarma, Parvatisam, Chidambaram Dixit, Satyanarayana Sarma, Ramamurthy, Nataraja Ramakrishna and Vempati Chinna Satyam. The atmosphere is serene and spiritual. This place inspires you to surrender yourself completely to dance and to dance with joy.

Vyjayanthi Kashi taught us the subtle nuances of Kuchipudi, patiently explaining the origins of dance, the evolution of Kuchipudi, the meaning of the slokas and the interpretation of the dharuvu. The composition learnt in the workshop is a rare gem which is not commonly seen in standard Kuchipudi repertoires. Preserving and passing this rich heritage onto the next generation of artists helps to keep the traditional items alive. In addition to the lessons in Kuchipudi, she spoke about her rich experiences in dance over nearly three decades, giving us an opportunity to experience the guru shishya parampara. There are so many things in addition to the art itself that we learnt from her - humility, empathy, simplicity to name a few.

Vyjayanthi Kashi emphasized that "Patience, Perseverance, Perfection and Practice" are the four essential pillars of learning dance. During the course of the workshop, she said, "I can tell the calibre of a student not by seeing him/her dance to an entire item or present a set of adavus, but by just observing him/her. The way a student greets, conducts himself/herself, the body language speaks a great deal." To the learned eye of a guru, identifying the calibre is one aspect, the other important aspect being bringing out the best in every dancer. And Vyjayanthi Kashi was excellent in bringing out the best in every single dancer in the group. The innate ability to do this during just three days earned Vyjayanthi Kashi the respect of one and all in the workshop. She is a teacher par excellence as well as impartial, patient, inspiring, approachable, energetic and encouraging.

Dancing in a group is a very enjoyable experience. I have always craved to dance in a group and this opportunity to me was like a dream come true. 15 pairs of feet tapping to the rhythm of jathis in perfect synchronization, 15 pairs of eyes moving together to depict the abhinaya, made the theatre glow with radiance. The dancers felt that the pace at which they could grasp the item not only gave them joy but also increased their self confidence. There was a unique kind of energy that bound the group together and left everybody rejuvenated at the end of the three days. As per Guru Kashi's advice, all the dancers attended the last day of the workshop bedecked in traditional cotton sarees and antique jewellery which added more beauty and grace to the atmosphere.

The icing on the cake was the performance by Vyjayanthi Kashi on the concluding day of the workshop. The performance started with Ardhanareeshwara, a resplendent representation of Parvathi and Shiva's sacred personalities. Her mastery of thandava and lasya was a visual delight in this piece. The program progressed to portray the shringara rasa in two very different contexts. While the dream sequence from Usha Parinayam captured the innocent love of a young, vulnerable Usha pining for a man in her dreams, the dharuvu "Shakunalu manchi vayenamma" depicted the joy of a mature heroine Satyabhama as she learns of good omens favoring her union with Lord Krishna. The panache with which Kashi enacted these two very different roles one after the other enthralled the audience. The "Bala Gopala Tharangam" was the highlight of the evening. The brisk and the intricate footwork on the brass plate was flawless and the depiction of the pranks of Lord Krishna regaled the audience and left them wanting for more.

Vyjayanthi Kashi explains that the setting for the performance in the Shambhavi School of Dance is that of an intimate theatre. The close quarters at which the audience gets to witness the performance connects the dancer with the audience and vice-versa in a very intense manner. There is a direct channel of energy created between the performer and the audience, which makes the experience surreal.

As the alarm rang at 6am on the 29th morning and I was woken out of my sleep, I wondered if the past three days were a dream and my first reaction was this strong urge to go back to sleep for the dream to continue. Fortunately there is more to look forward to with the Mohiniattam workshop just around the corner starting on the 9th of July. To all dancers out there who are passionate about dance, I would highly recommend they take this opportunity to learn from legendary dancers, as these kinds of opportunities are far and few in between and they are opportunities of a lifetime.