The Dance of Sound by Apoorva Jayaraman

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Image: Apoorva Jayaraman, Nritya Ratna Winner 2013

On Day 4 of Milapfest’s Dance/Music India 2013 – Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, heir of a genius whose name was synonymous with the music I grew up with as a child – mentioned the phrase “dance of sound,” what Lalgudi Jayaraman named an album of his thillanas. I cannot find a better term to define the week that was at Liverpool. As I watched Krishnan Sir’s exposition of the lyrical emphasis of Lalgudi’s music, brought visually alive by Leela Samson’s poetic interpretation of his Revathy Thillana and Priyadarsini Govind’s abhinaya to Theeradha Vilayatu Pillai – I heard the words through dance and saw the words through music. For a student of the arts, this state of consonance is the ultimate aspiration.

I’ve been a regular at Dance India a few years now – the intensive day-long saadhakam, the stirring evening performances, sleeping to the charged practice of jhod-jhala by the students of music and waking once more to a magician’s morning raga, are all almost a given – what more can one ask for, one thinks! Yet, the dance school out-does itself year after year. The highlight for me this year was the lecture-demonstrations – they seemed to suddenly open up paths that lead from a place here and now, to beyond; from a place of the excitement of the performing arts, to the serenity they can inspire.

A charming story-teller, both through words and music, Anil Srinivasan set the context at the very first lec-dem when he chose to narrate this little story:  Just when Valmiki begins to rest on the laurels of his great work, he comes across Hanuman’s far superior version of the Ramayana which moves him to tears, and insecurity. Hanuman nonchalantly destroys his writing in order to preserve Valmiki’s status as the best of poets! It is one thing to want to be a Valmiki – inscribing our art with all skill, beauty and prowess across the sands of time, but true greatness is that which lives on after the footprint has been washed away, when the footfall continues to echo. It is the story which lives on. Like it was for Hanuman, it is the story that must keep us all going. In our case, the story being our art. Anil ji, Rakesh Chaurasia and Leela Akka were meant to take us from page to stage, but they did much more – they showed that the real journey, the one that mattered, was an inward one and that any honest story is a good one. Anil ji and Rakesh ji did not miss making a dramatic statement about inwardness by performing their last piece blindfolded.

We had more than one post-midnight session, including an on-demand screening by Akhila Ramnarayan of her theatre group’s (JustUs Repertory, Chennai) dance-theatre production Sarpa Sutra, a fitting demonstration of the coming together of classical music and dance through the medium of theatre. And how can one forget an absolutely fascinating music competition on the last night. Admittedly, it wasn’t just the excitement of art (and midnight chai) that kept me awake this time; there was the nervous adrenaline rush of being called upon to be a judge, a task I turned out to thoroughly enjoy. The creativity, originality and elan of each of the groups of Music India students was truly stimulating. If the competition kept us awake past midnight, discussions about it stretched the bedtime to several hours after!

Over and above all this, what made Milapfest’s Dance/Music India week that much more special is the camaraderie – the warm family-like feeling (at times the hardest to come by in the field of performing arts!). I felt genuine joy in talking, sleeping, eating, breathing dance with fellow dancers, and this time around, with musicians too. Full credit to the Milapfest team which does an unparalleled job of creating the apposite ambience.

“10,000 hours of hard-work”  ended up becoming the mantra of the week (which I think is still a far cry from the real thing!), yet Dance/Music India this year, for me , was beyond just this promise of hard work and aspiration for perfection. It opened a little window into the realm of truly great art. I had always looked, starry-eyed, through a glass pane at this world, but here now,  I can feel a little gentle breeze beckoning.

Apoorva Jayaraman, Dance India 2013 participant and Nritya Ratna – Young Dancer of the Year 2013 Award Winner

Read about the Ratna Awards or for more information about Dance India visit the webpages.

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