2019 was not an easy year for me as a dancer. In February, I fell and sprained an already weak ankle and nursed a swollen ankle for three months or more. I continued to teach, but practising and performing were out of the question. I was restless, of course, but I do know that I gained much from the experience.
For one, for the first time in many years, I watched our troupe perform. I wrote about it in a Facebook post, and it sums up what I feel.
So often, when we perform, people come and tell us how much they enjoyed the show. When I listen to their wonderful responses, particularly if I’m happy with the performance myself, I long to be two people. I long to watch, while also dancing. I want to see us.14th March 2019
At today’s performance, I will.
Anyone who’s ever worked as part of a troupe knows this: there’s no ‘me’ and ‘you’ when we dance together. We go together, we dance together.
And so, since I’m not dancing today, I’ll watch *us* perform.”
In April, I began to dance a little, but without the energy and vigour that makes Bharatanatyam what it is. I did what I could, but focussed on abhinaya, on helping backstage and on compering, rather than trying to do everything.
In the normal course of things, I favour a forceful, crisp form of dancing, which demands exactness and rigour. I love sharpness and geometry, and I delight in the mathematics of Bharatanatyam. Being compelled to be gentle with myself was new and important. Understanding my limitations and attempting to find beauty within them was a journey of discovery and learning.
We did three performances in April – at Udupi, Murdeshwar and Chitrapur. At Sri Krishna Mutt, Udupi, we put up Krishnaarpanam, an offering to Lord Krishna. Our performance there made for a wonderful story, and isn’t that what dance is all about?
On World Dance Day, we did two performances in praise of Lord Shiva. One was at the spectacular Murdeshwar temple; the other was at a small, beautiful math at Chitrapur.
I played smaller than usual parts in all three performances, and I revelled in that. I enjoyed the time I had to watch and appreciate the dance form I practise, delighting in the tiny secrets that unfold on stage, visible only to those in the know.
On Dashami, all the children at dance class performed, and I said the theermanams for them, playing the nattuvangam after a long time. I watched and supported them, while also attempting to hold my own when they faltered.
During the dance exams too, I enjoyed sitting with my tattukazhi and giving the children the beat, realising where I stumble and need to hold myself together.
I’m one year older and I recognise that as a dancer, this means that my body works differently. Joints creak more, knees ache, my stamina is lower. Yet, a year gone by also means that I’ve gained one more year of maturity that I can bring to the beauty of expression.
My first performance of 2020 is next week, and I look forward to it!