Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Note On Naatya From Dance Maestro Dhananjayan

Sent: Saturday, June 26, 2010 11:40 PM
Subject: Fwd: kalasagar award

Herewith attached the article I promised to send. Dhananjayan

By. Naatyaachaarya V.P. Dhananjayan,

Bharatakalanjali. Chennai. 20


Having spent almost two decades in the Kalakshetra, Chennai founded by
the legendary Smt. Rukmini Devi we formed liberal views on the
International performing arts scene. Rukminidevi brought in several
innovations within the flowing traditions of the ancient theatre and
yet she did not claim to be an innovator or modern choreographer or
taken credit for the imperative changes taken place in the performing
arena. Now Kalakshetra has become a phenomena and its style of
Bharatanaatyam has become the measuring rod for the best technique.
Rukminidevi never assigned it the name ‘Kalakshetra style’ likes of
the way people attach a tag to their style as Tanjore style, Vazhuvoor
style, Pandanallur style etc. For her it was always two distinct style
of performing arts namely “good’ and ‘bad’ styles of Bharatanaatyam.
She used to say to us, her direct disciples, that whatever we do, do
it well. By attaching a Kalakshetra tag one does not become the best
traditionalist or orthodox, puritan etc. The so called Kalakshetra
style of technique is established and popularized by our batch of
students and myself and Shanta being the first couple dancers to come
out of the precinct of this temple of art are largely responsible for
popularizing and establish the beauty and strength of the method
Rukminidevi used. The incredible credit should go to Smt. Sarada
Hoffman, who meticulously made us practice the ‘good’ style to make a
distinct “Kalakshetra’ style. Needless to say that we have
contributed much to embellish the technique that we learned in
Kalakshetra and several innovative technique and formations within
the aesthetic parameters of a particular distinct style of performing
art has added to the already existing ones.

As it is well known now, it was Rukminidevi who started using the word
‘Bharatanaatyam’ in place of ‘Sadiraattam, Daasiaattam etc in vogue
during the immediate past centuries. All the initial resentments met
a natural death and this name passed the test of time to continue as a
meaningful nomenclature to adorn a technique, which encompasses
physical, mental and spiritual levels of delineation.

During our studentship in Kalakshetra (1952 to 1968) we have been
taught to pronounce each language, as it should be written in the
respective language. Based on that our generation of students
continue to practice and try to pass it on to our lineage. Some of
the mistakes crept into the English printed media remain unchanged and
because of the urban education and English medium schools, vernacular
is getting diluted with anglicized spelling and pronunciation. There
are so many such wrong usages in our languages. Since I am a
performing artiste with almost six decades of performing, teaching and
choreographing experience, my concern is about some of the wrong
usages found in my profession. I think it is my duty to point out
these important aspects and ignorance expelled. So the purpose of
this article is to draw attention to the words SAMSKRUTAM and NAATYA.

“SAMSKRUTAM” OR SAMSKRUT is certainly the most complete language and
as the meaning goes, samyak (well) + krutam (done)= samskrutam (well
done) a well constructed every sense. Scholars all over the world with
out pride and prejudice accept this. Bust some how the land of its
origin (Bhaarat) does not even pronounce the word correctly. WE write
and pronounce in an anglicized way as “san +skrit” which may have a
different meaning altogether. I have been appealing to people, print
media and scholars to change the wrong practice and use the original
correct term SAMSKRUTAM. Some of the western scholars have changed
and they are able to pronounce this word correctly as ‘samskrutam’,
where as we Bhaarateeya are still clinging on to the spelling and
pronunciation left behind by our invaders.

The same way our performing art tradition has a beautiful ‘term’
called Naatya, but they are always referred as mere ‘dance’. This has
nothing to do with tradition or modernity

‘Dance’ is a connotation commonly used for all kinds of movements.
Actually speaking the term ‘dance’ cannot be a true translation for
our ‘Naatya’. The closest equivalent to the meaning of ‘nritta’ may
be passed of as ‘dance’. Last year (18th December 06) in my lecture
demonstration in Music academy, the Academy’s expert committee
unanimously endorsed my views that Bharatanaatyam should be referred
only as ‘Naatya’.

Our performing arts encompasses physical, mental and spiritual aspects
hence the Samskritam connotation of ‘Naatya’ cannot be substituted by
the word ‘dance’ which remains at the physical level of any movements.

It will be interesting for our media and critics to know that western
classical Ballet tradition never use the word ‘dance to denote a
Ballet performance. The term ‘ballet’ according to Oxford dictionary
‘combined performance of professional dancers on stage’

Over the centuries the term ‘ballet’ became synonymous with the
classical dance technique of the West.

Practitioners of Naatya and the media have been erroneously using the
word BALLET to denote our dance technique. This wrong usage should be
thwarted and our printed media should take it up seriously and change
that to Naatya. The India Current being one of the best cultural
magazine which gives so much space for the promotion of our art and
culture should seriously take up the cause of changing this trend and
start using the term “ Naatya” for all our classical performing arts,
especially Bharatanaatyam. It is my earnest appeal to the printed
media people to give specific instructions to all their advertisers,
Art critic and article contributors on performing arts to use the term
‘Naatya’. Failing which the media Editors should themselves change
the word Dance to Naatya wherever it is relevant. Since people are
well aware of the term Bharata-naatyam, it need not be called or
advertised as a dance performance. Naatya means a combination of
Nritta, Nritya and Nataka. (Dance, expressions and drama)

Another blatant mistake our artistes make is that a dance drama is
publicized as ‘Ballet’ not realizing that we are actually referring to
the western dance technique. Westerners are often confused when we
advertise our dance drama as ballet.

Suffice it to say that we have a meaningful word “Naatya’ and the word
‘Dance’ and ballet should be replaced with that word wherever it is
possible and establish a new tradition of Naatya.

V.P.DHANANJAYAN, Bharatakalanjali, Chennai.


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