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Bharatanatyam’s original mentors

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Dancer Anuratha Swaminathan creates an Instagram sequence on hereditary nattuvanars and gurus

It’s an previous home in Mel Veedi, Thanjavur. A ravishing pulli kolam is drawn on the steps on the entrance. Inside, a number of black and white and sepia-tinted images of legendary nattuvanars of Bharatanatyam dangle from the partitions. Korai mats have been laid out on the red-oxide flooring. On a wood bench within the slim passage alongside the muttram (central courtyard) sits Okay.P.Okay Chandrasekhar, son of the famed Kittappa Pillai.

“This is the sanctum of dance. This 200-year-old house is where the Thanjavur Quartet brothers—Ponniah, Chinniah, Sivanandam and Vadivelu—lived and created the Bharatanatyam repertoire,” says Anuratha Swaminathan, starting to hint the historical past of the artwork kind and the household’s lineage. Behind her is a portray of child Krishna gifted to the household by the Maratha king of Thanjavur.

This whole state of affairs is an episode from an Instagram sequence, anchored and curated by Anuratha, a Bharatanatyam dancer, who educated within the Thanjavur sampradayam, below the Malaysia-based Indira Manickam. Daughter-in-law of the well-known natyacharya B. Herambanathan, Anuratha, alongside together with her mridangist husband Swaminathan, has give you an attention-grabbing and insightful sequence that takes viewers again in time to know how conventional practitioners taught the dance kind and perfected its approach. In the method, she has been reaching out to some veteran dancers and gifted disciples of the hereditary gurus, who recall the rigorous coaching and the way their ‘vadyar’ (nattuvanars) or ‘teacher amma’ (feminine gurus) have been unsparing of errors and mediocrity. It is fascinating to find how in that period dancer-gurus from the Isaivellalar neighborhood used a sure extraordinary model to groom younger disciples on this demanding artwork kind.

Mridangam exponent and nattuvanar T G Bavu Pillai
 

“My guru would ensure we were in the araimandi position throughout the adavu (footwork) session. She would insist that we tie a cloth belt to reduce stress on the hip and spine. And if we messed up an adavu, the next moment the thattukazhi (small wooden stick used to keep beat) would land near our feet. We were expected to take the art seriously and aim for excellence,” says Usha Balachandran, a disciple of Thanjavur Lakshmikantham Ammal. “Besides the many adavus, she taught us different hand gestures and eye movements to accompany diverse emotions. The aim was to make the entire body as expressive as possible.”

Though these gurus have been strict disciplinarians, their disciples say they have been additionally caring and beneficiant. “They were taskmasters only in the class because they taught with purpose — to pass on the rich treasure that they possessed. “The whole world might celebrate Kittappa Pillai as a nattuvanar, but to us he was a loving patriarch,” says Malathi Dominic, certainly one of his earliest college students.

The coaching was systematic, relaxed and focussed on each side of natya. The college students weren’t allowed to begin dancing from day one. They needed to first attentively take heed to jatis being uttered by their gurus, then study to maintain beat with their fingers, subsequent could be footwork, adopted by abhinaya and on the finish of it, they might be launched to compositions of the margam.

“We continued doing the adavus till we could perform them flawlessly, which would not be less than two years. One could get to learn the alarippu only after a three-year training in the basic grammar. So strong was the foundation,” says Nandini Ramani, a well known proponent of the Balasaraswati model. “Bala did not believe in over-dramatising emotions or glamourising movements. She made a mark with her honest and simple portrayals.”

Bharatanatyam’s original mentors

Uncompromising strategy

The gurus didn’t compromise even when it got here to household. Kuttalam M. Selvam says his father Muthuswamy Pillai (a recipient of the French honour, Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres) insisted on his rigorous coaching earlier than permitting him to select up the cymbals to do nattuvangam. So it was with S. Palaniappan, grandson of Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai.

The conversations on the Insta presentation emphasise the timelessness of the normal patantaram. And create consciousness concerning the influential moments in dance historical past. They additionally make one realise how a dancer can develop a definite strategy and put together the physique for better inventive challenges by gaining experience in adavus, theermanams, kalapramanam and hand gestures.

“If the series has managed to draw attention, it shows that tradition still holds sway,” says Anuratha. “For me, it has been a fulfilling experience as an artiste. It felt like going through my training all over again while speaking to the dancers, who brought to light the works of some hereditary gurus about whom the world doesn’t know. For instance, Thanjavur Lakshmikantham Ammal and Duraikannu Ammal of Pichaiya Pillai School of Bharatanatyam, the first central government registered dance school in 1952. Veena Bashiniammal, Lakshmikantham’s grandmother, was known for her riveting abhinaya classes.”

Kalapramanam (tempo) is a significant feature of the Thanjavur bani. “And a relaxed kalapramanam lets the dancer bring out the beauty of every adavu and bhava and the changing sensibilities too,” says Anuratha.

Anuratha Swaminathan

This episode

Streamed from October 7 to 10, it tracks the journey of B. Herambanathan, whose father was mridangam exponent and nattuvanar T.G. Bavu Pillai, who accompanied stalwart gurus similar to Chinniah Nattuvanar, Meenakshisundaram Pillai, Pichaiya Pillai, Chockalingam Pillai, Kuppiah Pillai, Ponnaiya Pillai, Kittappa Pillai, Kaamu Kannamal, Pandanallur Jayalakshmi, Rukmini Devi Arundale and Mrinalini Sarabhai. Herambanathan is well-versed in each mridangam and natyam. Besides Bharatanatyam, he has been a musician of the Melattur Bhagavata Mela and was a part of the revival of Kaisika Natakam at Thirukurungudi. Along together with his two sons, Swaminathan and Hariharan, Herambanathan is continuous the household custom of the Thanjavur bani. The sequence will be watched on thanjavurdhrsyakavyakoodam.

Thanjavur B. Herambanathan



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