by Savitri Naidoo on 'Bharatanatyam in South Africa'
The concluding day of the Natya Kala conference featured 2 lec-dems. The first one was about how Bharatanatyam has found its place in the African culture. Savitri Naidoo's 26 year old Vadhini Indian Arts Academy in Cape Town, is the first Indian dance academy in the Cape Province. With her skills and background in Western dance and the motivation of her mentor Dr. Dulcie Howes, she has structured an innovative dance course with grades, external practical examinations, theory and a wide range of workshops by experts in the arts in general.
the efforts of other dance practitioners, Bharatanatyam is now a school
subject and can be taken up to Matriculation level. Now, they are working
to take Bharatanatyam into the university level, where ballet and other
dance forms are already part of the syllabus. Earlier, lot of value was
placed on an arangetram where more value was given to the pomp of the occasion
than the dance itself. "An arangetram could cost as much as 40,000 to 60,000
Rand. Multiply by 6 for rupees," and we gasped in horror! Now things are
changing, especially after the boycott has been lifted in South Africa.
Now, people get to see lots of art, music kutcheris and different types
how she went about the teaching process. She first had to do an awareness
program about the dance, as the general idea was that pretty neck movements,
some hand gestures and the sound of the ankle bells was all that the dance
was about. At that time, there were hardly any dance programs on TV either.
Prominent dancers like Priyadarshini Govind and Sandhya Murali went to
judge the exams, after which the examiners took the students through the
paces. This exam shows whether the student is ready for an arangetram.
Talking about fusion of dance forms, Naidoo also does cross cultural collaborations where they spend about 6 months to a year learning each others' dance forms before putting together a production. They are currently working on the theme of slavery. Thus, Indian dance has been taken beyond the Indian dance community and to the wider African dance community. An example of its success could be gauged by the fact that 60% of the audience at their Natya Anjali fest was non-Indian.
Naidoo showed some slides about the African culture followed by the demonstration of the gumboot dance where slaves communicated through the beats. The dance of joy from Gambia promotes group participation. The costumes and bead decorations were adapted since the Africans wear minimum of costumes! The dancers wore attractive costumes for the African fusion dance of East and West Africa.
her gratitude to the Indian High Commission that has organized outreach
programs in the townships. She said that African children are uninhibited
and have such an innate sense of rhythm that within an hour, they are able
to learn our folk dances like garba. Naidoo also works with physically
disabled children and adults.