Spontaneously revolutionary abhinaya, Balasaraswati’s forte, is a fading artwork immediately and one thing that’s solely superficially understood
In terms of abhinaya, one can always remember T. Balasaraswati. Whereas it’s simple that she was a vital hyperlink to the previous by means of her illustrious lineage, representing seven generations of hereditary performers, she additionally had the extraordinary potential to ground audiences via her extempore abhinaya. One recollects American ethnomusicologist Robert E. Brown’s phrases, “Balasaraswati carried out the identical piece 15 occasions throughout a live performance tour, but rendered every model anew by deploying a variety of references and poetic tropes in improvised sections.”
Balamma, as she was affectionately referred to as, emphasised improvisation in abhinaya as a result of she believed that ‘composing’ dance for narrative sections was not in vogue among the many dancers of her era. This varieties the inspiration of the Bala Bani, which is being taken ahead by Balamma’s grandson, Aniruddha Knight.
The vocalists who accompany Aniruddha sing ‘Thiruvotriyur Thyagarajan’, the Atana padam, which is a crown jewel within the Dhanammal household heirloom. There aren’t any rehearsals with the co-artistes with regards to these expressive items; even the kalapramanam or velocity is just not mentioned beforehand. The musicians understand the tempo when Aniruddha begins singing the music and from the indicative stamping of the ft, accompanied by the clanking of the anklets. The dancer determines the velocity and the general move of the composition via his intimate compatibility with the musicians. The musicians should not advised what number of occasions every line must be sung; Aniruddha subtly signifies, via his singing and head actions, when the orchestra could progress to the following line. This makes ‘choreography’ a moot phrase within the lexicon of the Bala Bani’s abhinaya facet. It additionally leaves no room for dancing to recorded music, a dwell musical ensemble changing into core to this model, thus engaging in a performative impact via parity and mutual respect between dancer and musicians.
Bala’s instructing strategies
Though Balamma taught abhinaya, her college students attest that the content material of the teachings diversified from scholar to scholar. She would provide you with new methods to carry out a music in every session. Abhinaya was a deeply personalised presentation, and Bala believed it was an vital instrument to exhibit the dancer’s creativity and command. Nevertheless, throughout the ages, Bharatanatyam turned more and more institutionalised, resulting in manodharma abhinaya largely changing into a fading aesthetic.
Veteran dancer-choreographer Sudharani Raghupathy recollects her lengthy affiliation with Balamma, which started in 1952. “Her manodharma in abhinaya was unequalled. Her prowess was the results of her expertise and scholarship in addition to mastery over the grammar of Bharatanatyam. I’m intensely influenced by her method to abhinaya. I had a number of discussions with Balamma on how I might deal with a selected padam or varnam.”
Aniruddha says, “Abhinaya is just not one thing that may be solely pre-decided or rehearsed. For the reason that conveying of feelings is the salient objective of abhinaya, it undoubtedly is just not attainable for me to place my feelings in a field. How my grandmother and mom [Lakshmi Knight] would carry out a selected composition on a day trusted their mindset and orientation at that second.”
True to their imaginative and prescient, even immediately Aniruddha doesn’t carry out a selected expressive quantity the identical means in any two concert events. Though the model is bountiful with regards to repertoire (with a wealthy provide of lots of of musical treasures principally handed down era to era), manodharma abhinaya lends perpetual relevance to the Bala Bani.
Is it attainable for sancharis to emerge spontaneously on stage, in sync with the music and the rhythm? The dancer makes use of a basket of applicable expressions and gestures to convey what is important for a music. It’s comparable maybe to the stringing of phrases by a poet to create a poem — the phrases are recognized already however the poem is written afresh. As Aniruddha explains, it then turns into obligatory for the dancers to teach themselves not simply within the non secular texts, but in addition to soak up and internalise the subtleties from numerous dance types and artistes, varied genres of music, and from portray, structure and artwork. “In spite of everything,” he says, “publicity to the world determines one’s pondering. Clever abhinaya is a results of the flexibility to understand and reproduce — it definitely ought to assist somebody step outdoors their consolation zone.”
Says dancer Anita Ratnam, “I as soon as noticed Bala carry out abhinaya for the primary line of Papanasam Sivan’s Varali kriti, ‘Kaa Vaa Vaa’, for 40 minutes in a lecture demonstration at The Music Academy.” Balasaraswati’s model, says Anita, is a difficult one which calls for meditative give up from the dancer.
Rasikas who’ve seen Bala carry out dwell typically converse of how the music was visible and the dance aural in her performances. On this model, the dancer both sings in components or in full when performing compositions like padams. For sure, singing whereas dancing is one other hanging function that has largely change into extinct in Bharatanatyam performances. As Anita says, “Manodharma abhinaya carried out by the Bala college shines as a result of it brings out the dancer’s pure sense of musicality and rhythm. The emotion behind a bit triggers the impulse versus the lyrics alone.”
Studying and executing abhinaya, says Aniruddha, is a lifelong course of and may solely come from absorption and assimilation. He learnt this from his guru and mom Lakshmi. The intent behind every nuance turns into extra pronounced as one grows as a dancer. Knight had this transformative expertise late in life — specific expressions that got here to him as he carried out a bit. He says he couldn’t have realised a few of these as a scholar. The artwork unfurls itself to the seeker step by step and in essentially the most uncanny methods.
Sudharani says, “Guru Ok.P. Kittappa Pillai would problem me by giving me one line from a varnam on Brihadeeshwara and asking me to bounce what got here to my thoughts. Over time, I needed to learn up on the Shiva Purana and several other different texts to provide you with refreshing interpretations.”
Each custom wants worthy torchbearers to be propelled into the longer term. A really demanding model like Balasaraswati’s requires endurance, perseverance and introspection. Aniruddha is passing on the centuries-old legacy he has inherited to the following set of learners via the Balasaraswati Institute of Performing Arts, the place college students should not solely taught dance but in addition the distinctive dance music that’s intrinsic to this model.
A majority of Aniruddha’s college students are from unconventional social backgrounds with restricted entry and publicity to the classical arts, however they inherit the wealthy creative values of the Dhanammal lineage.
The author is a rasika of classical music and dance and likewise performs the veena.