Differences between classical Indian dance styles in terms of Natya Shastra, Tantra, calligraphy, mechanical engineering and psychiatry. Bharatanatyam styles & Bharatnatyam schools & Bharathanatyam dancers

Can you tell if these flowers are live or… latex?

This is the uncensored draft (still being updated) of the article posted on Narthaki.com.

The topics touched in this article will be:

  • Padma Subrahmanyam’s elucidation of Natya Shastra’s Recakas
  • Role of Recakas in producing Rasas
  • What makes the dance attractive, beautiful and interesting
  • Kaisikivs. robotic movements in terms of mechanical engineering
  • Why classical Indian dance proper is a solo dance
  • Laya and 22 Sruthis
  • Why Bharata Muni didn’t allow men to sing (and the proof that most dancers and rasikas are actually deaf)
  • Lines of power, and why Anita Ratnam is fond of her Tai Chi classes
  • Anga Suddham, modes of movements and calligraphy
  • The Tantric explanations of everything in terms of 3 gunas, 5 elements, the vrittis and more
  • Difference between true art, factory-produced merchandize, and garbage

In her book on the Karanas, Padma Subrahmanyam boldly attempted to pinpoint what is dance and what is not. She builds much of her explanation around the term Recaka. To give you an idea of what the mind-boggling variety of, for example, the Pada (feet) Recakas alone include, these “may utilize the space on the sides, move forward, slip or glide, waver, quiver, shake, proceed, turn away, swerve, sway, get pushed, jerk, slide, raise, lower, draw, release or whirl“.

Padma Subrahmanyam says, though, that Recakas “cannot be enlisted or enumerated“. She also uses the terms Prthagbhava (clearly/sharply outlined) and Valana (smooth/blurred) components of movement saying that a performance that makes use of both masterfully “can never be boring even for the uninitiated“. All this makes sense, while I am yet to understand her identification of Anga Suddham with Prthagbhava alone.

Alathur Vijayakumar, the founder of Kalavardhanis, thought he discovered America when he said that he arrived at a formula that detects the “presence of grace” (or rather, the presence of life) in a particular dance sequence. Any robotic movement (which the break dance or army soldiers marching seeks to emulate) can very accurately be described in terms of velocity (V)  and acceleration (V²) and jerk (V³).

Padma Subrahmanyam says, “…if the intensity [of movement] is constant, the actions suffer a lack of variety.The lines may be defined, lucid and distinct in every action with clarity even in the divergence of the movements. In such a convoy of actions, every movement follows disconnectedly, without getting dissolved into one another. Hence there is a danger of killing grace” . She says that the word Valana signifies that “each movement glides into another in a graceful manner“.

The famous guru Muthukumaran Pillai had “no patience for stiff, angular, sharp-edged or what he called “violent” movement: he wanted the movements to be firm, yet appear to be effortless. Then, in nritta sequences he insisted that the termination of one adavu pattern and beginning of the next should be marked, not by a blunt break, but by a gentle overlapping which should accentuate the continuity of the rendering”. Ironically, Rukmini Devi Arundale was one of his students.

 

Any psychiatrist or graphologist will tell you that if the letters in your handwriting are not connected, it means you think incoherently, and you have a good chance of becoming a schizophrenic in the future. Exposure to the schizophrenic dance performances is tantamount to eating food full of chemical pesticides.

Super-compex task for advanced dancers:

match each of these 3 words with a video below



The organic movements full of life, especially the kaisiki (graceful feminine) type movements (dominant in Odissi, Mohiniattam and  Kuchipudi), are extremely complex and each is unique (just like every live flower is unique) as the expression of the dancer’s manodharma. Their presence in dance can only be approximately described in terms of infinite number of components: V, V², V³,…, V∞ , and the speed graph will be way too complex.

The slight deviations from the impeccably “perfect” computer-generated standard are inherent in classical Indian dance. The deviations that create beauty are predominantly Sattvic, though, depending on the character, they may contain a good dose of Rajas. The ugly deviations are the results of the dancer’s laziness or inability to follow the proper trajectory (Anga Suddham). These are the Tamasic deviations (look at the 3 words “Dance” again).

Now, there are some politically incorrect and undemocratic conclusions that the senior dancers who hate Bharata Muni will abhor. Even if you are born with the Sattva as the dominant component of your (“Brahmin”) nature, your body, emotions and mind will be more Rajasic in the teenage years, and will be gradually more and more Tamasic as you grow older. (Yoga is the only method of changing this tendency). Our ability to understand, to remember, and to learn something new depends on the amount of Sattva in us.

I find it very amusing when the “senior” dancers dare to say that they somehow “explore the Sringara rasa” even though their recitals are devoid of many of the 10 kinds grace of the Sahaja type and of most of the 7 of A-yantaja type, all of which are part of the Valana-rich Kaisiki and all of which, according to Bharata Muni, can be found in the movements of the young women only. A very interesting element of beauty is among the 10 Sahaja graces: Vicchitti (dishabille) is “the great beauty that results from the slightly careless placing of garlands, clothes, ornaments and unguents“.

Why is the classical Indian dance proper a solo dance? Factory-produced latex flowers can be compared with the dance styles that are suitable for group performances where the dancers perform identical movements at the same time. To achieve the perfect “synchronization”, the movements have to be as plain (“perfect-shaped”) as the latex orchids (or one of the 3 words “Dance” on the right). Live flowers are never perfect-shaped and never have “geometric” appearance. If you are half-blind, the easiest method of detecting latex flowers is to smell them. No fragrance, no rasa. (Make sure the smell is not coming from your own hair where you had poured half a bottle of expensive perfume). “Recakas impearl the Nritta, make it shine and cause a complete aesthetic satisfaction”, says Padma Subrahmanyam. Recakas are like spices in food. Well, the food has to be bland enough to please the western palate.

In Tantra, the square represents the angular, robust and firm element of earth and Muladhara chakra. The rounded silver Moon crescent represents the element of water: cohesion, smoothness and life and… sexual energies of the Swadhisthana chakra. Swadhisthana is associated with emotion, which means that the dance without Valana is devoid of emotion. And because one of the 6 vritti petals of Swadhisthana represents affection, it means that the dancer who does not develop the Swadhisthana will have a big problem attracting the rasikas, especially the young rasikas of the opposite sex. As Swadhisthana is positioned higher than Muladhara, it means that the movements, before being expressed in the physical body, have to follow the movements of the subtle body (this is why Anita Ratnam is fond of her Tai Chi classes and will explain to us how body movements are supposed to spring from Tan Tien). Essentially, the Tai Chi movements are based on the principle of the least resistance, as the prana (Chi) “flows” throw various nadis like water flows around the stones in the river. The western (earthly) materialistic culture considers only the physical (sharply defined) body (sthula sharira), so their reliance on the muladhara techniques is obvious. Performing the Kalakshetra-style adavus will make you tired, while performing the adavus (at the same amplitude and speed) in the styles that follow the “lines of power” will energize you.

Padma Subrahmanyam compares the Recakas with Gamakas of

Karnatic music, and says that the “Gamakas are the very life of the Raga”. Referring to Bharata Muni’s 22 Sruthi (microtone) system, she says that the “Gamakas are caused through a webbed state of the microtones, built on the semi-tones and tones of the musical notes”. Have you seen many dancers whose laya is so good that their Recakas follow the microtones too?

If body movement can be described by a speed graph, the music is represented by its sound wave graph. Before you read on, you should define the distinction between music and noise, and between singing and shouting. (hint: analyse the sound wave graph).  The graph for the violin will be much more plain than the graph for veena, the instrument essential for learning gamakas in the vocal music . If Saraswathi holds a veena (not a violin, electric guitar or sax) in her hands, it’s because it is the veena that is most suitable for accompanying the Recakas. The arrival of the budget electric amplification greatly reduced the popularity of the veena, as the sound coming from even the best loudspeakers in the Chennai sabhas blurred the music beyond recognition. After the age of 40, normal people become so Tamasic that they can’t hear anything above 14 kHz. The aging rasikas (except the ones who daily try to exercise their ears!) grew hard of hearing and came to prefer the Italian violin.

While there is software that can impeccably mimic any male voice, there is no software that can analyze and generate a female voice. If the male voices relate to the consonants, and the drums, the women’s relate to the vowels, are far more complex, loaded with far more subtle nuances and shades of feelings. After all, isn’t the world of emotion the woman’s world? Bharata Muni explains that “Though men know the rules of singing in their traditional characteristics, their songs being devoid of sweetness, do not create beauty.  (XXXV, 35-36). “Generally, songs are suited to women, and recitatives are suited for men… The good quality in women’s recitation and sweetness in men’s songs should be considered as an acquired skill, and not part of their in-born nature. If men lead [in songs] and the songs possess good characteristics, but have no sweetness, then these impart no beauty… There may be [allowed] a loss of proper note in women’s songs and playing of musical instruments. But this will not be sweet to the ear in case of men” (XXXII, 503-511). Sounds quite discriminatory, doesn’t it? Note, Bharata Muni keeps saying that “The singer should be of a young age“.

4 thoughts on “Differences between classical Indian dance styles in terms of Natya Shastra, Tantra, calligraphy, mechanical engineering and psychiatry. Bharatanatyam styles & Bharatnatyam schools & Bharathanatyam dancers

  1. Wow, “Ashwini,” what happened in your life to make you such a miserable person? You are so bitter and cowardly, having to hide behind a pseudonym. The problem is that even though you know a lot about bharatanatyam, you act like some old bitter matriarch protecting it against the “vulgar” dancers who don’t perform as if it is still the 19th century.

    First of all, you make a lot of idiotic statements. Like in your post on the one NRI dancer you liked, you wrote something like, “Photography is not art, painting is. Anyone can take a photograph.” Uh, anyone can apply paint to a canvas too. Obviously you are not cultured enough to know about the really artistic photography out there, which isn’t surprising because I’m sure you’re not really invited to gallery openings and the such. You are kind of like the troll who lives underneath the bridge – everyone is aware of your sad existence but choose to walk over you.

    Second, you obviously are some kind of bigot since you choose to use words like “Negroes” – how uncultured are you? Were you raised by heathens? Only uneducated, trashy people talk like that to make a point.

    Third, you need to stop with the obsession about the 108 karanas and the undying devotion to the NS. Art is a living breathing thing that reflects society. Obviously, being that you are probably some wretched shut-in who has horrible social skills, I wouldn’t expect you to know about anything “living” and “breathing.” But just because someone chooses to do fusion or kathak/tap or “South Asian British dance” that GOD FORBID explores something other than the highly codified forms of dance you seem to be obsessed with, doesn’t make them “vulgar” or “pseudo” artists.

    Actually, you are a coward. A coward sticks so maniacally and fundamentally to tradition because they are scared of new forms, new ideas, new interpretations. Sure, some new interpretations are plain bad, but a lot are actually pretty good. Not in your book! That’s probably why you have little relevance to the art field. (Again, who pays attention to the troll under the bridge?) But yeah, it’s actually much more difficult to come up with new ideas and new forms of thinking witin the classical tradition and take a RISK and do something new. Not just for the sake of it – which you seem to imply is the sole reason anyone does anything new, for the publicity – but because it may actually reflect today’s society?

    Then again, you seem like the kind of witch who doesn’t leave her house much.

    Also, you are laughably ignorant in how you dismiss the abhinaya of male dancers and make the huge generalization that “emotions are the realm of women” or whatever you said. What bull! First of all, if I were to compare your average Swedish woman to an Italian man, I think I would find a lot more personality in the latter. You obviously live a shuttered life since you have never seen male performers exhibit heart-stirring emotion.

    Then again, I’m sure every man tries to stay as far away as possible from you – but I’m sure some chump has to suffer an arranged marriage to you. Poor lad.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you are a lesbian, seeing that you are obsessed with young women performing and emoting. It’s quite creepy, honestly.

    The funny thing is that you probably don’t think you are crazy. I showed your erratic writing style, the weird repetitive headlines on your blog, and the fact that you have a 100 labels for each blog entry (hoping that Anita Ratnam googles herself and finds your sad tripe, eh?!) to a couple of my friends and they immediately said: “Is this bitch crazy?!”

    It must be sad being so lonely, no?

  2. From the troll underneath the bridge:

    what happened in your life to make you such a miserable person?

    Yes, I am indeed miserable, being thrown down back to Earth after seeing the Divine Beauty and basking in the Divine Light and Bliss. Can’t forget it. The material world is such crap! I feel like a London banker on a long business trip to rural Kongo. Feels like an exile.

    who don’t perform as if it is still the 19th century

    I am not fond of 19th century.

    Uh, anyone can apply paint to a canvas too

    You didn’t read my post carefully (Typical American shallow-mindedness). Take a photo of a dancing Kali, then post it here.
    As for painting, I didn’t mean some monkeys smearing paint on the canvas.

    You are kind of like the troll who lives underneath the bridge – everyone is aware of your sad existence but choose to walk over you.

    I thought I was considered to be a landmine.🙂

    words like “Negroes”

    Look it up in a British English dictionary, educate yourself and others.

    you need to stop with the obsession about the 108 karanas and the undying devotion to the NS

    You so generously volunteer to be my guru? And teach me salsa?🙂 Come on, I don’t even drink brandy!

    explores something other than the highly codified forms of dance you seem to be obsessed with, doesn’t make them “vulgar” or “pseudo” artists

    Before “exploring”, they’d better learn at least one style properly. All this “exploration” is done by lazy and incapable dancers who can’t learn. They can only “explore” when they get drunk and observe monkeys.

    A coward sticks so maniacally and fundamentally to tradition because they are scared of new forms, new ideas, new interpretations.

    I am not opposed to anything new as long as it keeps the spiritual essence of the past. We are in Kali Yuga. I think you can read only every other paragraph in my posts. American attention deficit syndrome?🙂

    but a lot are actually pretty good

    Tell me about these.🙂

    but because it may actually reflect today’s society

    Reflect what society? The society of drunkards in Kali Yuga? I don’t care about your cheri society obsessed with Viagra and cricket.

    make the huge generalization that “emotions are the realm of women”

    I think very few men (actually, only good artistes) can more or less experience emotions. I wrote that dancers like Kiran Subramaniam are an exception.

    if I were to compare your average Swedish woman to an Italian man

    The comparison is not fair. People in Northern Europe are as emotionless as a bulldozer. Or as Anooj.🙂

    seeing that you are obsessed with young women performing and emoting

    Not only Bharata Muni but every psychologist will tell you the same. Educate yourself. Open your eyes and explore the real people.

    The funny thing is that you probably don’t think you are crazy

    Well, I think you are crazier than I am!🙂

    I showed your erratic writing style

    I had already explained that my posts here are just drafts, some ideas jotted down that do need a lot of editing if you want to publish them in a magazine or a book.

    It must be sad being so lonely, no?

    It is much more sad to be in the company of idiots than to be alone. Actually, I don’t think anyone can ever be alone, considering thousands of spirits surrounding you. Quite a company!🙂

  3. Dear blogger,
    I love this elaborate write up essentially for emphasizing the fact that INDIAN CLASSICAL DANCE is a SOLO dance.That classical dance cannot be jacketed to suit group performances is my honest opinion as personally I for one find it very difficult and become extremely self conscious performing as part of a group.True indeed,’live flowers are never perfect shaped’.

  4. Response to Diya’s comments above:

    Upon reading the comments of ‘Ashwini,’ as well as your response (Diya’s) to those ‘Ashwini’s, I could not help raising my eyebrows and muttering: Here goes – one bigot calling out another?

    While ‘Ashwini’ may see some people from North America as a racist for calling the blacks as ‘Negroes’ , you come out as a homophobe, for suggesting that the person making allegedly ‘bitter’ remarks about younger artists is a ‘lesbian,’ because, oh(!) being lesbian ‘does make a person bitter and preoccupied with the abilities of the younger artists.’

    By your logic (watch out all teachers!), I guess, senior teachers (including myself – classical guitar) of any art that focuses on developing and nurturing the talents of younger female or male students or criticizes the younger artistis, is a ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay.’

    Oh Boy! Is there no dearth of people throwing the ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’ remark at somebody they dislke? Grow up, people!

    (By the way, ‘Negro’ is the word used in South American countries to refer respectfully to the Black race or to even close associates irrespective of color of skin in these societies)

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