Dance with the Devil

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Recently, I had the privilege of seeing an exquisite classical dance performance. I say classical here, as this is not one of those fancy, new age freestyle forms. In the words of American slang, “This ain’t none o’ that”. Like any form of art that evolves with the passage of time and other cultural vicissitudes from the original scheme of things, this particular form of Bharatnatyam has evolved over centuries, dating back to the 3rd Century BCE.

There is debate amongst historians as to which is the oldest dance form in the world today- Bhartnatyam or Belly dancing? Yes, you read that correct. While the latter seems to now have many negative connotations attached to it, the former is dying out. Any form of art is a part of not only a country’s heritage and culture, but belongs to all of mankind. People who impart the knowledge of our culture are our true masters. This entry is dedicated to all such masters- you are truly the jewel in our crown.

After being exposed to this alternate universe where art is at its most sophisticated, I received a nasty shock coming back to present society. A society where a rich cultural heritage is mocked and even looked down upon, because its not “cool, hip or in fashion”.

What astounds me the most though is not the fact that such an old dance form survived through the melee of human frivolity but that it was portrayed with such fervor and grace that one would think that the dancer was in a trance. There was nothing spasmodic about her movements; no surprise jerks and no vulgar gyration, which seem to be flooded in what we call “dance”, today. Every step was calculated and fluid. I think its safe to say that I was lost in the perfection of it all.

But perhaps the most astonishing fact about classical dancers is not only that they choose to practice something that people may call archaic, but also the dedication with which they devote themselves to learning something that takes years to perfect. In a time where everyone is in a rush and do not even take a moment to appreciate their own lives, its rare to find people who would devote their lives to such tradition.

I myself have had the honour of being trained by a living legend- Dr. Yamini Krishnamurthy, in the art of Bharatnatyam. I profess that even after 15 years of training, I am not nearly even a tenth as proficient as this Mistress of Dance. My teacher- nay, my guru, has given me something with which I make the most important decisions. She said, “Humans are nothing without their passion. If you have the passion for something, let it burn through you, even if it destroys you. We are not human, if we do not have passion”.

When we follow our dreams to make them into reality, often we give up a lot of things on the way. Have the courage to follow your passion because the regret you will feel for not following what you most desired, is not something any human being should feel. There is no life without the feverous ardor running through us. Without it, we are only existing.

There is a word in Urdu called “junoon”. It is upto us to figure out our “junoon”. When we know what it is, we will know our purpose. And you know that weird empty feeling you get sometimes when you don’t know what you’re doing with your life in a 9 am- 5 pm job? Yea, you probably wont get that.

 “Passion is the Genesis of Genius”

– Galileo Galilei

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2 thoughts on “Dance with the Devil

  1. Coming from a family where my Mom and my sister are both poets.. My affinity towards art is seeded ever since my childhood.

    Probably, that now I am in my mid twenties so the spasmodic streak has mellowed resulting in the observation of current vicissitude in society.

    Needless too say that the article conveyed in arrow like precision the unfortunate demonstration of the so called “dance” in today’s day and age.

    Any art form and especially a Bharatnatyam, requires commitment, dedication and surrendering to ones “Guru” in the form wherein it demands life long devotion which I believe is not possible today due to complete lack of depth and substance in a segment of youthful literate adults.

    It’s mournful that we are a part of a society wherein the basic essence of humanity is missing. Alas ! Forget about adopting,recognizing and appreciating an art with a vitiated heart. Alluring traditional art form necessitates summon to a virtuous soul, not just anybody.

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