From being a Senior Research Director at Hansa Research Group to Senior Faculty at Chidambaram Academy Of Performing Arts to running her own dance school Madhuryam in Chennai.
Your life’s journey so far, the learnings, from a Corporate life to running a Dance academy and as an accomplished dancer –what is more fulfilling?
I started learning Bharatanatyam at the age of 6 and had my Arangetram (maiden stage performance) at age 13. After which, on and off with travels out of Chennai for my education, I was part of the dance dramas and group productions of my guru Smt. Chitra Visweswaran, and performed solo recitals. I have to mention the time in Delhi, during my 11-12 th standard, when a friend and I had a great time performing in the capital, doing Nattuvangam for each other. We had the courage at that nascent age, and the training by our guru to conduct the recital for each other! That was good fun and great training ground for us.
Having finished my management education in Mumbai, I got working in the Market Research field. Then life went on with marriage and kids, where I naturally happened to take a hiatus from dance, where corporate life, work and family life were all consuming
All the while even when I was away from my dance class and programmes (in Mumbai, then Pune, when I got married) dance was part and parcel of my life. Whenever time permitted, I danced at home, much to the trouble of my neighbours! Listening to music would inspire dance and I’d start thinking of ways to express the lyrics! I’d visit dance programmes every December during music season in Chennai. Then, when I decided to break away from the Corporate world due to many reasons, I fell back to dancing, first just for fitness and enjoyment, then back to class to teach and then be part of productions and then finally solo performances again. Dancing is such a joy! Thinking about it brings a smile to my heart.
Dancing, emoting to the music, feeling closer to the Lord and teaching children dance and hopefully taking them closer to spirituality- are very emotionally fulfilling for me. Dance is something for the soul.
We do what we have to do at different points of time in our lives. We make decisions taking into consideration various circumstances and situations. How we respond to a situation depends on how much we can adapt ourselves or shall we say want to adapt ourselves to it at that time.
When did you decide to pursue your dance passion?
I had as a child wanted to be a dancer and a dance teacher. But somewhere along the way, the dream morphed into being someone in the corporate world. However, passion for the art then found its way again post a hiatus and I resumed in 2011; teaching, dancing, doing my own work.
Taking up dance again is feeding passion, for my joy. For my kids – hopefully, by their observation – reach my children with how tradition is important. Gives a purpose. To stand alongside my husband in showing that the corporate way is not the only way to live life.
What can we learn from dance as a guide to life and business?
Dance classes and training are abound with little instructions for life :
Punctuality – to be earlier than on time for a class, a rehearsal, for a journey …,
Preparedness – go prepared every time for a class. Do hour homework, it helps in furthering one too the next level. Be prepared when one travels, for as many eventualities as possible, so carry spares and duplicates.
Stamina – mental and physical stamina are challenged; to push one’s self to go on, Think on the feet when something goes wrong. Physical pressure to keep working so the body retains the memory, so the body is capable and doesn’t fall into non-use. Keep dietary control as required and a fitness regimen. Mental stress is there to push and keep going, deal with situations, in the creation of new work – the music, the patterns, the information to show and how to show.
People skills – interactions with the teacher, the students, parents of students, colleagues whom we work with from time to time, the orchestra members, the curators, rasikas, other artists peers – different people, different mindsets, different situations like an HR job!
Creativity – every presentation is different in creativity – the meaning, the emotions, the rhythmic patterns – to entertain and retain the audience’s interest.
Maths – yes maths! Intrinsic to dance is the rhythmic patterns. One can work out many creative ways to present the rhythm -could be lyrical and musical or just rhythm for rhythm sake. A challenging task to create these patterns, to say it to the rhythmic cycle of the piece – so this aids in the networking in the brain as well.
Marketing – yes as in all fields marketing is currently required. Social marketing is big today in this field. How to interest the Rasika, how to be known, to showcase one’s capabilities, to portray and put forth one’s area of interest.
What are the similarities and differences between running a business and running a dance academy?
Running a business and a dance school – where we have to decide what we want. Business is about profit-making. A dance academy need not be so. The important Ps here are Product and Promotion. Price and placement areas possible by the teacher/the director of the academy, basis the vision and purpose. So fine arts has a fifth P – that’s Purpose.
What is the importance of spirituality in life and how does dance help in one’s spiritual journey?
Dancing involves music, lyrics. The purpose of the art is to create Rasa, a resultant emotion in the onlooker, which will only result if the complement is felt in the dancer. Bhakti is the predominant emotion one feels for a spiritual journey. Bhakti may be expressed in dance as shringara bhakti – love for the lord with Him as the purusha, the paramatma and the dancer as the sthree or the jivatma. Bhakti may also be vatsalya – love for a child. Bhakti is also felt in ashcharyam or awe that one can feel when one thinks of Him and His deeds. Also bhayam or fear that is created in wrong doing. Hasyam felt in Bhakti when we enjoy or think of his playtimes.
Dance helps one relate to the lord in so many ways. In dancing or creating new work, research, reading up, getting inspired opens up new avenues, new information on the Lord, gets one closer to Him. Dance and music are positive influences, positive vibrations, makes one more sensitive to your consciousness and leads you to think twice about any wrong doing.
We see a lot of commercialization happening in all areas of education, including Fine arts, where the traditional essence is getting lost — Your views.
True! Commercialization has set in. Not in paying artists. But in procuring opportunities to perform, in teaching and putting kids on stage for the remuneration that is sought, irrespective of the quality of dancing.
Bharatanatyam as art is getting diluted. There are fabulous dancers, there are mediocre dancers. A plethora of teachers and dancers are there all over. A lot of hopefuls. Dance is a performing art. One wants to perform to showcase one’s art and passion. The lights, the live music, the stage, the costume, and makeup all enhance the total experience. There are a few stages to perform. Hence pay-and-dance has arrived, resulting in an extended dance season in Chennai till early March.
The result of all this, is somewhere we are promoting mediocrity dancers and teachers. More physical dancing vis-a- vis dance with the emotions and feeling that the art form is supposed to have as per all the literature and grammar books from times of yore.
Having said this, dancing on stage is an important step for every dancer. For, dancing is joy. Increases the confidence in the dancer, the experience is an important step in her development. Taking a little more time and effort – on the part of the teacher and the student (in doing the homework, working on corrections, reading) – will enhance the quality and lift the art from falling into mediocrity totally.
We need to say ‘no’ to pay and dance. However, this is a chicken and egg situation. Is a problem of plenty dancers and few opportunities. Maybe the dancer can also look at other avenues connected with dance – like writing for dance, reviews, management etc.
Your plans, your vision for future
My vision is to get my kids involved and interested in our culture, our heritage. With a lot of the western culture coming in, the need is to integrate dance training with interest in our traditions to contain the onslaught. Through stories, activities, and experiences to interest them at a young age.