Tomorrow I’m traveling to Chennai, the hub for Bharata Natyam and Karnatik music. As I’m returning to my old stomping grounds, I’m contemplating how to approach my time there. What immediately comes to me is the desire to have a fresh perspective. I want to renew my relationship to dance and explore what dance can be in my life. I would like to create new associations that are enlivening and empowering.
It’s been more than fours years now since I left Chennai. Since then, I’ve gained some insights about myself and my approach to dance. See, when I lived and studied in Kalakshetra I approached my training as a self-imposed boot-camp. I see that now. Eventually, I came to associate dance with hard relentless work and even pain. I was never good enough, no matter how hard I tried. Yet I wasn’t aware that my ‘truth’ was in fact a web of self-limiting beliefs. In my ongoing attempts to unravel the threads of this web, I’ve started sharing openly on this blog and elsewhere. (Of course, I’ve also come to see that this is ‘a dancer’s syndrome.’ Or as my little sister Jambu says, “you dancers are so mental.” If I may venture to generalize, we artists are quite vulnerable to self-doubt.)
Another painful truth that I had to face as I left India was that I had tried to do away with myself to become a South Indian girl. In my eagerness to be accepted and imbibe it all, I was all too ready to sacrifice myself. I think I was afraid, and still sometimes am, of being my own unique person. I was convinced that I couldn’t be me and be an authentic Bharata Natyam dancer. I felt self-conscious about my whiteness and foreignness, instead of simply accepting that both of those are intrinsic aspects of my current psychophysical nature.
Because of these factors, I’ve been afraid to return to India and especially Chennai fearing that my ‘old ways’ would be reactivated, and that I would be pulled into my self-critique again. Even though I do feel anxiety about this, I also feel ready to put that old way of being behind me.
So this time in Chennai, I want to consciously accept myself, including my limitations, my progress, my inner depth, my reactivity, all of it. Basically, I plan to be 100% honest with myself about my feelings. This usually leads me to a greater awareness and acceptance of what goes on within.
During my time in Chennai, I want to truthfully explore my feelings for dance. Where do I want to go with this? What is dance in my life really? What do I feel inspired to work towards, if anything?
I’m also excited to observe what’s happening in Chennai’s dance world and gain some clarity through that where my heart is. What do I resonate with? What do I want to stand for? If I was brave enough to walk my own way, where would I go?
I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you.