The dancing Toots has revived many a fond memory and I am not sure, I like it. I don't like it simply because I miss it. Once upon a time, it was a passion. The term passion, and its adverb passionately, often express a very strong predilection for any pursuit, or object of taste -- a kind of enthusiastic fondness for anything. -- Cogan.
It wasn't just strong, it was almost a compulsion, a very thin line separated the obsession from the passion. I haven't a clue why my insightful (almost psycho, she just knew everything) Ma admitted me to a traditional Bharatnatyam dancing school the same day I started pre-school at two-and-a-half years. But since then, except for a brief break due to a stomach injury, I have trained in Bharatnatyam for 15 long and painful years; every Wednesday, come rain, sunshine, high fever or whathaveyou I'd go on my weekly pilgrimage to Mastermoshai to exercise my skills in Bhava, Rasa, Tala and Natyam - the core that comprise Bharatanatyam.
Mastermoshai wasn't a very hard task master but a sweet old man who knew and recognised talent. Once I’d grown out of the initial infatuation for the jingling sound of the ghungroo, as a toddler, he initiated me into my first mudras and the first steps of Aduvu. From that day onwards, I happened to be his blue-eyed girl. In the early years, it was more the enthusiasm to learn something new, a little about peer pressure and a fancy dream about being a star performer, someday.
I wouldn't just go to class to learn the steps, it was not just about dancing, but observing the others ( the seniors, really) and making mental notes of improvising certain postures, because the mudras and the aduvus were sacrosanct. They were what comprised nritta, that is dance in its purest form. But it was natya (the dramatic art, a language of gestures, poses and mime) and nritya (a combination of nritta and natya) where one had the scope to develop one's skills as a dancer. That's where my greater interests lay.
With each passing year, as I progressed from Alaripu to Jatisvaram (thanks Lali) and mastered more complicated steps of Shabdam, Varnam and Padam it was more about internalizing my ability to express happiness, anger, sorrow, fear and the works. I realized, they all happened rather naturally. I could do the various steps in my head ten times over while Ma was screaming her guts out at me for not living up to some expectation or another. I could break into Jatisvaram when I was depressed and I’d soon feel better.
By the time I had flexed every muscle in my body and used every part of my face to delineate Tillana, dance had become more a way of life, a spiritual expression of corporeal angst.
I've been on stage since the age of 4 or maybe younger, I don't remember, and from the photographs I recall now, I'd always be centrestage, which meant all eyes would naturally be on me and that I guess impelled me to know, to learn and to imbibe every step that much better.
It’s been over 15 years now since I even attempted a mudra or an aduvu. Years ago, back then in the Jurassic age of classical dancing, I was a bit of a puritan (and a snoot), even as a child, since I looked down upon those gyrating movements that were passed off as dance in Bollywood flicks. Over the years, I have grown immune to the Karishma Kapoors, Kimi Katkars and more recently Rakhi Sawants and Isha Koppikars of the world. But, today, I am forced to do the same shakin’ your booties stuff at sundry discotheques or parties as they do. I don’t like disappointing friends. So I stand amidst the crowd and shift in my shoes.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against modern dance, as long as it has tala, laya, that is it’s rhythmic and graceful. But alas, even those basics are often not there. The TV show Nach Baliye is a classic example to the point. There are couples with two left feet, who can’t dance to save their lives and yet, they are there on stage, making royal fools of themselves, shamelessly so. I feel angry when I see such stuff.
Before anger consumes me, I should end this long rant. But, let me tell you, “I could’ve danced all night, and still have asked for more.”