‘The journey is hard, but worth it’

Poorna Kulkarni
Friday, 24 May 2019

We chat up Bharatanatyam dancer Rukmini Vijayakumar who is performing today at Nupurnaad festival

Classical art forms are considered as treasures of Indian heritage. It is pure bliss when one imbibes any classical art and is able to share the joy with the audiences through their performance. Striving to do exactly that is Bharatanatyam dancer from Bengaluru, Rukmini Vijayakumar, who will be performing in the third Nupurnaad Festival being held this evening at Shakuntala Shetty auditorium, Kothrud.

Dr Swati Daithankar, who has organised the festival, says, “Nupurnaad is a way of giving back to society in the best way we can. It is for the artists, by the artists and on the artists. To our surprise, our audience mostly comprises youngsters.” 

The line-up
Alongwith Vijayakumar, Hindustani classical vocalist Pt Sanjeev Abhyankar, will also be performing. Speaking about his performance, Pt Abhyankar says, “I am very happy to perform at Nupurnaad. I will be presenting late night raagas like Malkauns, Chandrakauns and Jog.”
Vijayakumar, who is the  artistic director of Classical Dance Company Raadha Kalpa in Bengaluru, will be presenting a beautiful piece, Abhimata — The Beloved that explores different relationships in the context of love. She will also take a two-day workshop on body basics for dance students, who will be coming from Lucknow, Nashik, Aurangabad, Mumbai, Jalgaon, Pune and other places to attend it.

Study, observe, perform
Vijayakumar, who is captivating and arresting on the stage, says, “To conceptualise my performances, I read and sourced material from mythologies. I observed my surroundings. It is important to understand the story and interpret the character well.” 

The performances of classical dances have evolved and today, we see creative blend of conventional and traditional elements. When asked about this, she opines, “Everyone can choose (what they want to do). I feel that every art form has a base from which it has developed. Indian classical dances are based on ancient scriptures. Over a period, I have noticed that it entertains those who want to be entertained. And, those who wish to go deep, do that. People take what they want from this art.” 

“Bharatanatyam offers something like a prayer or spiritual element. Some choose to reflect on the ideology and continue with it, while some tend to go away. I feel that we must be sensitive to the background, texture, and physicality of what Bharatnatyam is,” elaborates the danseuse.

When asked about the changing times and the issues that matter to us, Vijayakumar says, “We are changing, but we must think how we should use the texture and physical vocabulary in different contexts for depiction. For instance, one can present a dance performance on issues of traffic or pollution. But in the process, one should not compromise on the quality or nuance of the art.”

No short-cuts
Dancing is both nritta and abhinaya. Until one feels the character, one cannot emote with depth and intensity. Apart from being a dancer, Vijayakumar is also an accomplished actress and has acted in South Indian cinema. She thinks that the base of abhinaya, in dance and in films, is same, but the way it is presented differs from medium to medium. She says, “How you imagine and how you act is same for all the artistic mediums. The aesthetic portrayal differs. How you use your body, voice, and face in various mediums — films, theatre and dance — makes the difference.”

Coming to art forms, they have got a wider platform through reality shows. Plus, thanks to technology advancement, one can study dance long distance too. Vijayakumar, who doesn’t completely discredit the digital platform, says, “The online media has made a lot of learning accessible which wasn’t the case before. When I was younger, I wanted to know more about varnam. I would ask other dancers, they would refer me to another person. The process was long. But now many young learners have benefited from online learning.” 

However, she also strikes a cautionary note. “Many people want to learn quickly, without realising the hard work that goes into it. I get a lot of messages saying, ‘I want to dance like you’. I feel like responding ‘Can you work hard like me?’ 

To further drive home her point, Vijayakumar shares an important note. She  says, “Once I asked my Guru, ‘When is it that I’ll completely be myself, have something that offers me more peace, and makes me a better person in the long run?’ The answer I received was ‘Dance’. I agree the journey is hard, more serious, uncertain in many ways, but it is all worth it,” she concludes. 

ST Reader Service
The Nupurnaad Festival will be held on May 25 at Shakuntala Jagannath Shetty Auditorium, Kothrud, Pune from 5 pm onwards. The two-day workshop on May 26 will be held from 9 am to 4 pm, and on May 27 it will be held from 9 am to noon, at Jyotsna Bhole Sabhagruha, Shukrawar Peth. The event and workshop are ticketed.

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