Renowned danseuse Dr Rekha Raju is in the city for the annual Madhurita Sarang Music and Dance Festival slated to take place on May 29. Dr Raju who will perform at the event is an an exponent of both Mohiniyattam and Bharatanatyam and is on the mission of aggrandizing the art of Abhinaya.
Speaking to this correspondent, the classical dance exponent who represents Mohiniyattam in the Expert Committee Panel of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India’ shares her thoughts on dance, its impact on society and how it benefits youngsters in the modern world.
What does dance mean to you? Who instilled in you the passion to undertake this performing art?
Dance is much more than just natyam for me. It’s an integral part of my life.
We come from an orthodox Brahmin family , my mother Jayalaksmi Raghavan always wanted to be a dancer but due to the traditional restrictions she couldn’t pursue her love for the art form. She took up music but never made a stage appearance.
It was then that she decided that when she has a girl, she would teach her the art of dancing. She actually took lots of vraths to have me. When I was three-and-a-half years old, she took me to my first teacher.
Can you define that one moment when you knew that this is what you were meant to do?
I was doing my graduation and Charetered Accounting simultaneously, when, after my graduation I suddenly felt that numbers were not meant for me. The rhythmic numbers of dance was much more interesting and creative. That is the moment I decided that all I want to do is dance.
What is the difference between Mohiniyattam and Bharatnatyam?
Bharatanatyam is all about lines and mohiniyattam is about circular movements and grace. Thats the best way to communicate.
Would you say, with the advent of western dance force, traditional styles are losing out? Are there dance forms that have gone extinct? Can they be brought back?
Shastriya Nrithya as the name suggests is Classical. It is classic and will remain a classic whatever modernisation may come in. India is known for its tradition and culture and Classical Dance is the best example of traditionalism.
Dance has the ability to strengthen one’s cultur and though improvisation has been made they have been such that it does not hamper the aesthetic value of the classics at large. However modern or contemporary we may become our roots lie in our tradition.
How interested are youngsters in traditional dance forms?
I myself belong to this generation and as a youngster feel the responsibility of passing on the dance form to the next generation. The present generation knows what to take in and what to omit. A lot of youngsters are taking up classical art form as a profession and doing lot of work to preserve it.
Why do you think, should a youngster take up a traditional dance form like Bharatnatyam or Mohiniyattam? What is its health, psychological benefits?
Any art form is not just about learning, they are actually lifestyle choices. A person’s whole persona changes through dance. Dance teaches a person values like punctuality, commitment, respect, grooming, etc.
Dance is yoga and meditation. With the help of dance the mind and body can be controlled and disciplined. If both the body and mind is in control then most of the health and mental issues are solved. That’s what we need in today’s fast world.
Do you think traditional dance forms need to evolve with time to survive? Have they in the last few centuries?
I don’t think we need to evolve something that already is a classic, yes we might need some innovation to make it contemporary but it always retains its core values. Dance is an art form that evolves with every person who undertakes it. From the devadasi period to a disciplinary art form every classical dance has already evolved over years of practice and performance.