Dance of the Gods

Dance of the Gods

Dance is a form of communication that brings out the innermost feelings. Indian classical dances are in fact dances of the mind and soul, more than of the body. Its exponents believe that it is an art form that has descended from heaven to earth. In fact Lord Shiva’s Nataraj pose speaks volumes about the role of classical dance in India.

No wonder then that on Monday 27 June 2005, the Gadkari Rangayatan was packed with 800-odd dance lovers from Thane who had come to watch a programme on Indian classical dance. The programme, titled "Akaar Mahotsav", focussed on the importance of technique in Indian classical dances like Kathak and Bharatnatyam. The programme started at 8.30 pm and went on for three hours during which a number of dance items enthralled the audience.

The programme was organised by Payal Nrutyaniketan, a classical dance academy in Thane, to celebrate its annual day with a theme that pays respect to Indian Classical Dance. The founder of Payal Nrutyaniketan, Poonam Murdeshwar, a Kathak and Bharatntyam exponent, has been teaching Kathak and Bharatnatyam to students in Thane for 35 years now, insists that dance is more than just artistic gestures of the body. According to Murdeshwar, it takes years to master the techniques of the various aspects of classical dance, including the utterance of dance syllables, which is as importance as the gestures. Facial expression is another important aspect of Indian classical dance that has to be mastered by students who wish to perfect the art.

It was these details that Monday’s programme tried to bring out when many of Murdeshwar’s erstwhile students performed dance numbers to an audience that kept shouting "once more" requests. Murdeshwar’s daughter Tammanna, herself a Kathak and Bharatnatyam expert, performed an item based on old film songs along with choreographer Mayur Vaidya, also her ex-student. She also did a pure Kathak number based on Hridayanath Mangeshkar’s famous Marathi song, "Tu Tehwa Tassi" along with Angad Maskar.

Murdeshwar, who has taught more than a 1000 students, learnt her art from such distinguished dance teachers as Gopikrishna, Dr Rajkumar Ketkar, Raj Rajeshwari, Madhumati and Vaishali. And her daughter Tammanna is continuing her legacy of dance. She too has learnt both dance forms and now helps her mother in teaching students.

So what made her choose a theme of technique? Murdeshwar is a firm believer of pure art form. According to her, "Once you master Indian classical dances, you will find you can very easily learn perform western dances too. Though, the opposite is not true." Even western culture has classical dances that are equally good, but unfortunately today’s generation is exposed to western pop and rock influences, she reveals. What is heartening though is that youngsters in Thane are enthusiastic about learning classical dances – a trend that’s healthy from the cultural viewpoint because Indian classical dance is not just about dance – it’s also about inculcating the Indian value system.

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