Workshop with Priyadarsini Govind
- Lakshmi Swaminathan

April 27, 2012

IDEA (Indian Dance Educators’ Association) and Sivam, Inc, hosted a two-day workshop with Priyadarsini Govind in Potomac MD on April 3 and 4, 2012. While the experience for me as a dance teacher was very informative and enriching, the workshop made a significant impact on the students and other members who attended it. Below are some of the experiences of the students in their own words:

Medha Swaminathan (9th grade, student of Lakshmi Swaminathan, Natananjali School of Dance)
To her every audience Priyadarsini Govind’s level of dancing appears effortless and  natural. Despite being a dancer of her caliber, Govind exhibits humility and patience as a dancer, teacher and person. My experience exposed me to her inspiring character in all three capacities.

As a teacher, Govind corrects students with detail, telling them exactly what to do to yield positive results. She enforces practice through repetition, repeating a movement or section several times, adding adjustments each time, until each movement is perfect. In class, Govind is immensely serene and understanding. She takes all questions and spends plenty of time with each student. She never seems to run out of patience explaining corrections or translations. Where other Indian teachers may be extremely strict, Govind teaches without reprimand and with plenty of positive reinforcement. Priyadarsini Govind’s kindness, understanding, and presence make her a joy to watch, and a model to learn from. My time working with her was some of the most productive learning that I have experienced.

Priya Seetharaman (9th grade, student of Lakshmi Swaminathan, Natananjali School of Dance)
As I walked down the stairs to the basement, I did not know what to expect from the next two days.  My experience in learning from other artists was limited; I thought all artists taught in the same way. For the first hour, Priyadarsini Govind broke down the steps into individual movements: the eyes, the hands, the feet, the head, the neck, etc.  She stressed the importance of the eyes, and how it was essential that we focus our eyes before moving our bodies. We were also told to “watch our angle,” and be mindful of where we finished a step, for that would be the starting point of the next.  None of us had ever broken down a nritta step so far; it was weird to be thinking while performing jatis.  We spent so much time on the eyes, and now I see why it’s important to do that.  Without focusing the eyes, without using them to their maximum potential, the necessary effect is lost.  The split second in which you focus your eyes allows you to keep your balance, to give a “pause” between movements, and most importantly, to maintain control over your body.  After this day, not only did the eyes become far more important, but also the very manner in how I danced had to change.

Revathi Mohan (7th grade, student of Vani Ramesh, Srishti School of Dance)
Over Spring Break, I went to a two-day dance camp taught by Priyadarsini Govind.  We were learning two items, Shanmughapriya Koutvam and Rusali Radha.  Since we only had three hours each day to learn these items, we were learning vigorously and fast-paced. All in all, the camp was an amazing experience for me, and prepared me well for my Rangapravesham in the future. When I saw Priyadarsini teacher dance for the first time in our camp, her talent amazed me, and I wanted to dance just like her.  She did every single step with grace and ease, and she taught very well, too.  She made sure that we all understood every step, and she went over all of our doubts. 

To conclude, I am very glad that I attended this camp.  This was a great chance for me to explore more into my interest in dance.  Priyadarsini teacher’s class was fun and enjoyable, and I have learned a lot from it.

Preethi Ramamurthy (7th grade, student of Vani Ramesh, Srishti School of Dance)
Priyadarsini Govind, one of India’s top Bharatanatyam dancers had visited the state of Maryland in the beginning of April. During the workshop, she taught us one Kautuvam on Lord Muruga, and an abhinaya piece on Radha and Lord Krishna.

The Muruga Kautuvam was in raaga Shanmukhapriya, set to adi thaala. This piece was a combination of nritta and abhinaya. While we were learning this item, Priya maami took time to explain the meaning of the song. She also briefly told us two or three stories that were mentioned in the lyrics of the song.

Rusili Radha, the abhinaya piece, was in raaga Mishra Yaman and set to aadi thaala. The song depicted the story of how Radha got angry seeing Krishna with other gopis. Priya maami sat down with us, and explained the story. She also took some time to look at each one of our expressions, one on one. After showing several movements for the song, she asked us to come up with our own ideas. She also made us do each line several times so we could get better with our expressions.

Aradhana Vyas (8th grade, student of Lakshmi Swaminathan, Natananjali School of Dance)
Priyadarsini Govind’s workshop was a great experience. I not only learned a new dance but I learned more about dance. I learned how to use your body to show different actions and expressions ultimately creating a beautiful dance piece. In this workshop I learned that in dance the most important part of your face is your eyes. Your eyes guide the audience and help keep the focus on the dancer’s story. She taught us techniques to help us hold the audience’s attention and helped us to maintain perfect form.

Priyadarsini Govind is a very optimistic teacher and pushes us with a positive and fun environment and atmosphere. My favorite part of her choreography was the expressions she shows while she is dancing. I really enjoyed learning from Priyadarsini Govind, and I would enjoy doing it again.

Abhiksha Desai (8th grade, student of Lakshmi Swaminathan, Natananjali School of Dance)
Priyadarsini Govind was a great teacher and choreographer. I especially liked how she was able to teach us a difficult dance in just two days without making me feel rushed or too overwhelmed. She gave us good tips on what to do and what not to do as we danced such as breathing constantly, using our eyes to the fullest extent to show what we are trying to say through our dance, and never to hide our eyes as we looked down. She was also very nice and funny. If I got another opportunity to learn with Priyadarsini Govind, I would definitely take it.

As can be seen from the students’ reports, Priyadarsini Govind not only made a deep impact in the short time that she interacted with them but also increased their understanding and appreciation for the dance form. Although there is mention of two items having been taught in the workshop, Govind was only to teach one item, which she did. It was her largesse that saw her exposing the students to the finer nuances of abhinaya through sharing with them the other item, Rusali Radha. She did emphasize that an abhinaya piece could not be learned and perfected in one day but needs to be explored and understood thoroughly. We were indeed fortunate to have had such an inspiring experience with her.