The power of storytelling
The Power of Storytelling
It was on the 8th of October 2019 when my mother, a Bharathanatyam and Kathak dancer, invited me to her dance performance in Bangalore, India. Promptly enough I got dressed up for the event and readied myself to drive through the heavy rainfall the city was engulfed in. I reached the venue with a blank mind and not knowing what to expect from this show, with my knowledge about this dance form being next to nil.
As I entered the venue, I watched the audience gather in organised groups and settle down to silence, awaiting a performance that would eventually take my breath away. There was a sudden rush of curiosity I felt as I watched the dark stage and listened to the rushing jingles of the ghungroos backstage. As the clock struck 6 pm, there was an immediate silence that spread across the auditorium, making the melodious sounds of the falling rain louder. A minute might have passed on in silence when the stage lights from above slowly illuminated the silhouettes of the eleven performers in a pose to the sound of an ascending tanpura. This was the moment when my eyes widened like a small child looking at a christmas tree for the first time.
The dance recitals went on, one after the other in an orderly fashion, as the eagerness to finally watch my mother give a grandiose of a performance (like she always has) grew. Finally the time came for her to take the stage with the rest of the nartakis to give a performance to remember for a lifetime. The entirety of the show was a perfect blend of light, sound, costume and ambience, thus creating a theatrical spectacle that left me awestruck.
This was the nritya put forward by none other than The Abhinava Dance Company. Headed by Nirupama Rajendra and T. Rajendra, India’s foremost classical dancers, the school focuses on spreading these traditional dance forms in their truest nature. Having won various awards in India and overseas, this duo have won the hearts of millions across the globe. It took them over 25 years of sheer hard work and undeterred perseverance to achieve their dream. The word “Abhinava” translates to something Classical and all time new and is devoted towards the true power of storytelling to entertain while leaving a message for the world.
The performances by The Abhinava Dance Company, are a rare blend of music, hand gestures, key poses and graceful movements from the regional dance styles of Kathak and Bharathanatyam. The dance forms include special vocabularies from the Natya traditions that are deep and appealing. Nirupama and Rajendra hail from families of educationists, artists and Harikatha Vidwans (Traditional Storytellers). What intrigued me even more is that, the dance techniques incorporated by this duo and their school, are derived from Natyashastra - A 5000 year old classical text on Dramaturgy. The couple’s performances are a spectacle to witness and bring about a refreshing flavour of storytelling by perfectly blending dance movements, expressions, oratory skills and rich music.
If you listen carefully, in the end, you’ll be someone else
India, the land of cultural diversity, is home to a large number of traditional art forms. From music and dance to theatre and painting, they are all celebrated with utmost passion all across the country. One such art form has never ceased to leave the audience awestruck and overwhelmed. Kathak. One of the eight major forms of Indian Classical Dance. It’s origin is attributed to the travelling bards of ancient northern India known as the Kathakars or storytellers.
The name “Kathak” is derived from the vedic sanskrit word “Katha” which means Story and “Kathakar” which means The one who narrates the story. These storytellers narrated the tales from the great epics and ancient mythology through dance, songs and music. The evolution of this elegant dance form took place during the Bhakti movement by incorporating the childhood and stories of Lord Krishna and independently in the courts of the Indian kingdoms.
Kathak is found in three district forms called Gharanas where the dance tradition of Jaipur, Benaras and Lucknow evolved. While the Jaipur gharana focuses on the intricate foot movements, Lucknow gharana on acting and the Benaras gharana on the hand gestures and facial expressions, the collective emphasis is on the story being told.
In modern Kathak, all three gharanas, consist of three main sections - The invocation, One pure and abstract recital and one expressive dance. Even though it is christened as a dance form, the perfect blend of light, music, ambience, hand gestures and graceful movements makes it a life changing spectacle to witness. Kathak, in its entirety, couldn’t have been summarised better than the famous author Vyasa - “If you listen carefully, in the end, you’ll be someone else”
Nirupama T & Rajendra
Being the highest rated artist on Indian National Television and teachers of the art is no joke. Having trained under the greats of this country, this duo have not only won several accolades but also the hearts of millions across the world. As rightly said by Nirupama herself, “We are storytellers hailing from the land of the oldest storytelling tradition- Bharatha (India)”, this duo is the powerhouse of storytelling.
Based out of Bangalore, they started their wonderful life in Indian classical dance over 25 years ago. Throughout the journey, they have constantly focused on their efforts to showcase the spectrum of Indian Classical Dance forms in all its grandiose to people across different cultures. Together, Nirupama and Rajendra, never tire from working towards a performance that is a unique spectacle for its audience through each of its productions resulting in an experience that is enriching, visually breathtaking and rooted in culture and tradition. I definitely got transcended to another space altogether.
It is fascinating and inspiring that if one puts in the hard work and perseverance, they can achieve anything under the sun. You know what they, “The sky is the limit! ”. Nirupama and Rajendra’s story is along the very same lines. Over the span of a quarter century they have worked as dancers, choreographers, producers and performers while fighting tooth and nail to present to us a scintillating and stellar performance that has melted the hearts of millions.
In the year 1998, the duo was awarded the title of Natya Mayuri and Natya Mayura respectively by the Government of Karnataka for their excellence in the art. This acted as their stepping stone towards the greatness they have achieved today. In the following years of 2010, 2011, 2013 and so on, Nirupama and Rajendra were awarded and honoured by the Government of Karnataka for their contribution to the Indian classical dance form.
Being a musician and having attended countless performances of music and dance over the past decade, it was this evening of 2019 that struck a chord like no other. That evening in its entirety was uplifting for the mind, body and soul. It is not quite often that one stumbles upon the art of Natyashastra in its truest form and in such grandiose. I consider myself lucky to be privileged enough to witness this and watch someone close to my heart be up there on the stage creating magic.