It is still very clear, the walk, the stairs, the second-floor flat and the girls dancing. Yes, memories never fade but this one lingers. I reminisce the moment and find myself immersed in more joy and happiness. And then the realization dawns that my journey to oneness with the intangible began when I was four. My life as a dancer began when I was four.
Yes, I was just four when my mother took me to a Bharatnatyam dance class in the neighbourhood, unaware of what the classical form was like. All she desired was her daughter to learn classical dance, be it any. The centre was at a walking distance and mom, being a teacher, found it convenient to drop and pick me up for the classes.
For me then dance was stepping to beats. And, I got to do that when my guru, Smt Sujata Dinesh, played the nattuvangam (a wooden instrument played to practice Bharatnaytam). I followed what I was told to do and so I continued dancing. Classes were never missed, be it may summers, winters, rains, storms or exams.
That’s how dance became my life. It instilled discipline, confidence, the desire to be with myself, gave me strength, inner-satisfaction and taught me to be at peace with every aspect of creation. Dance for became a medium to maintain harmony between mind, body and soul. The philosophy behind each composition, I learnt, brought me closer to divinity, helped me to define bliss and translate my energies into meaningful actions to build a narrative for my audience.
Dance did make me carefree. Yet, it stopped me from losing my track. Years of learning helped me imbibe qualities and teachings, which no school teacher with best of abilities could have given. The most precious and preserved has been my spiritual learning. To dance on poetry written decades ago in the praise of the abstract power enlivens your inner soul.
And, didn’t I miss all of this when I did no dance for 16 years. Having learnt it for more than 18 years dance suddenly took a back seat in my life as a journalist. Eventually, it stopped completely. Life was not the same. There was something amiss. I felt disconnected and the yearning took me back to dancing again.
I was eight when I learnt the first piece that required me to do abhiyana (facial expressions). Based on Krishna, this composition was meant to depict the makhan chor’s naughtiness, his antics and playful activities with the gopis and his love for Radha.
It was easy to play out Krishna as the prankster who tricked gopis to steal their clothes when they went bathing or broke the water-filled earthen pots on their heads, only to see them wet. What left me imagining was Krishna as the universal lover, to display the affection of gopis towards him despite his antics.
My connection with the abstract as a lover began with this dance sequence. To imagine and fall for someone unknown requires you to dedicate you to yourself, makes you go deeper to understand who you are and what you desire. Dance does this to me. There is a conscious understanding of body, mind and emotions and withdrawal from the world, concentrating on inner self. Bharatnatyam, for me, is a way to express human desire, to be united with the Divine, in the most eloquent way.
Happiness cannot be owned, traveled to, worn or consumed. Happiness is a spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. My return to dance has put me back into life. It has brought back the zeal to live and my outlook towards life is uplifted. While dancing you tend to leave all inhibitions and move freely like worship to God. It is as if you are submitting yourself to him forever.
— Bhadra Sinha is a Bharatnatyam Dancer