Today is the last day of my 30 day challenge, and I’m sad that it’s over! I’ve been in such a dance-consciousness every day, and I’ve developed a small friendship with my own dance. I’m considering to continue, 108 Day Challenge maybe? I have to think about how I want to proceed.
A big realization has been regarding the bodies limits. The body, and certainly my body, has limitations already. Why not explore this fully and use the full range of movement available to me?
This has been the underlying inspiration motivating me throughout this challenge to move in different ways and explore the unknown. And I feel that there is quite a lot more to explore…
With these thoughts in mind, I kind off just let go:
PS: we are going to DC and NYC for a week hence the cluttered space
I like having my two feet on the ground. Even swimming too long makes me uneasy, and I yearn to feel earthbound and grounded. Bharata Natyam really suits me in that sense.
But recently I saw Pilabolus in action, a New York based dance company known for their innovative choreography. In one of their solo pieces, the girl used the floor as her partner, so to say. The piece consisted mainly of endless Summersaults with occasional moments where she would come up to balance on her shoulders. This solo was my inspiration for today.
I can’t find a clip of it on YouTube but here is something else spellbinding in a different way by Pilabolus:
In essence, I was inspired to contact the earth with other parts of my body. And also to be less frontal and face-forward, instead multi-directional. It wasn’t as smooth in every moment as I wished it to be, but I was happy enough with it as an improv:
My classmate from Kalakshetra Vincent Pinault wrote me the other day asking, what’s this blog thing all about? And he added that he liked the Leela akka piece I did, not sympathizing with my inner conflict at all. Since our graduation from Kalakshetra in ’07, Vincent’s always been encouraging me to stick to pure Bharata Natyam.
So here is a Bharata Natyam improv to the nritta-based thillana music in the melody, Natta Bhairavi. I chose this piece of music for two reasons. One, I don’t know the choreography to this dance, and two, the tune is on a loop, so the main line keep repeating most of the song, making it easy to freestyle to it. Also, in accord with the traditional structure, I attempted to repeat on the left what I’d done on the right. I was mostly successful:
I had a full day on my feet. And my legs were actually aching so I didn’t want to create dance-movement, but finally home at 9.30 pm I did a sequence on ‘creating shapes.’
But guess what, my iPhone camera crashed! So I’m off the hook! Too bad it didn’t crash before I got moving because now I’m really like a corpse in bed. Shavasana for a couple of hours.
Last night I was looking at Youtube videos and thinking about which dancers I want to emulate. Although there are several people I admire, I don’t actually aspire to dance like them. In that sense, I haven’t found someone whose footsteps I can follow. When it comes to traditional Bharata Natyam, however, Leela Samson or Akka as we call her is my foremost rolemodel. For example, she was 57 when I saw her dance, an age where many other dancers have long since put their own dance on the shelf. I mean, I’m barely 30 and I’ve heard comments like, “You better start dancing, because the end of your time is coming closer.” There is this assumption that dance is only for the young, and Leela Akka completely busts that myth, and that’s just one of the reasons I think she is so cool. Anyway, I will write about her another day, but my point is, I decided to try out one of Akka’s choreographies, just like I tried on Shantala Shivalinappa’s. It seemed like a perfectly sound idea:
But no sooner had I done this, than I felt a constriction in my throat and a heaviness in my chest. It almost got hard to breath. I felt crushed by a voice full of contempt asking me, “do you think anything you do can be even close to what Leela Akka does?” Even though that had not been my motive at all, the relentless voice mocked me, crushing me down. And I felt like my realization from yesterday was just slipping through my hands and disappearing. When I looked deeper to understand this sudden onset of feelings, I found this question, “Why are you trying to fit me into this mold?” Or rather, “Why are you forcing me to be someone else?”
Unwilling to be haunted by these emotions all day, I went outside and tried again. My thoughts were about fullness, giving, and taking:
Doing this left me free. For now…
Today I’m bursting with inspiration and barely feel contained within the boundaries of my body. One reason for this might be an insight and affirmation that came to me yesterday: I will always continue dancing no matter what. In other words, no matter what my professional satisfaction is or what the results are, I want to personally continue to have dance as an integral part of my life. This felt like a big shift for me, from confusion to clarity.
Hence, in my improv session today I felt calm. The main inspiration behind my movement was Sva Hridaya, two words from Jayadev Goswami’s poem Sa Virahe that I danced to on Day 17. Sva hridaya marmani = in the innermost part of her heart. Right next to this stood my thought that God is in our heart. Sometimes I feel soothed by his presence there, sometimes I feel empty and alone:
Today I was inspired by a clip of Bijayini Satpathy and Surupa Sen a.k.a. the astounding Nrityagram. What moved me was the nritta, the ‘abstract’ dance, which nevertheless felt so vibrant and meaningful as I watched it. Also, and I don’t know what this says about me, but I felt oddly comforted seeing them dance in what looks like a hallway. My thought was something like “substantial and beautiful dancing can happen off-stage too.”
So today I had a “back to my roots” feeling as I too simply did nritta, pure dance movements. Mostly in this dance challenge, I’ve tried to be creative and have stayed away from straight-up ‘traditional’ movement. But this felt very grounding:
PS: the guest-artist today is Chunni, our family dog.
My sadness from yesterday has been lingering with me all day. I’ve been trying to do that balancing act where I’m not simply giving in to despondency yet neither am I dismissing it. In some ways, this sadness I’m feeling is beyond words, not something I can explain in a sentence or two. But basically it’s this, I’m up against a barricade of my own making, and it seems impossible to cross over it or even see beyond it. I’m talking about my mind, my emotions, my firm beliefs.
If I simply listened to my dominant feeling, I would’ve ‘stayed in bed’ all day, aka, sat around surfing the internet and looking at YouTube videos. And I knew that I would feel better once I got moving. My Kuchipudi dance class was energizing, and Swathi akka’s company is always sweet. I also watched my sister-in-law Ganga’s Odissi dance rehearsal which brought me into another world. And suddenly I felt inspired to do my Dance Challenge.
My favorite dance day in this challenge so far was Day 1 when I danced at Subi’s mural in Miami, FL. So although this graffiti sidewalk here in Gainesville, FL is nothing like that mural, I thought “Why not?”
Then, this happened by chance right after, a dance by the sun on my face 🙂
Vis sang a beautiful new song on the guitar and my friend Sara was here harmonizing and filming. They were great, as for me, I felt completely un-accepting of my dance and was overcome with a wave of sadness. So today I don’t want to post anything…
Found some jottings in an old notebook of mine. The words still resonated with me.
Even though I don’t use much space, I imagined myself enclosed in the box of light on the floor. I got this thought about a mandala or a constricted space by my fellow dancer Jamuna who is also doing this dance challenge. Visit her blog and be part of her journey.
Also, you can hear my friend Jahnavi Harrisson singing in the background, from the live track ‘Surrender’ with Gaura Vani.