One can safely claim that Bharatnatyam has always been a popular choice to learn, amongst the Indian classical dances. And several names have made it more respectable and admired, thanks to their unique work. Amongst these names is Swati Daithankar who for around 25 years and more, has made it her priority to keep the flag high for this dance form. She had recently performed at Fest 2014 held by Spic Macay’s Pune Chapter.
Thanks to her career choice, she has travelled within India and abroad for her performances. For Daithankar, the interesting problem performing abroad comes in terms of language. Whereas in countries like US, she faces no trouble explaining her work in English before performing, it is in Europe that trouble comes up. “Here, English is not common. I had to depend on gestures to explain the programme. But I always say that the effect on the audience is the same. It is overwhelming.”
If you get the bhava onstage, the after effect is felt by the audience.
She believes in surrendering herself to her art and her work allows her to cross all barriers. Gestures, body language and so on are universal and so are the emotions. Daithankar makes it a point that wherever she goes, she makes sure that she explains things in English, Hindi or any language via translator and then performs. “If you explain a bit, the audience can savour the flavour. I have got a good experience with reaching the audience. Once in France, my performance was on Draupadi Vastraharan. Most of the French audience would not be aware of the context of the theme. So I prayed that they understand what I performed. I went an extra mile to represent my culture. A lady later came to me and she was crying. She said she did not know why but still was crying after watching me. This is because of Rasa Sutra. If you get the bhava onstage, the after effect is felt by the audience.”
Daithankar’s tryst with Bharatnatyam began as child, at a time when dance classes were not as much a norm as today. “I was born in Mumbai where dance classes were not as normal and my mother tells me I used to ask her to take photos when angry or while performing. My parents thought I should go to classes and supported me to pursue my passion. When my teacher saw my talent, he started to come my place to teach. I did not choose dance; it choose me. I find a comfort level in dance. It is spiritual for me. When I perform, it is for him and feel I should dance to make him happy. If you work hard, it is always a pleasure. I never thought of making money out of it. With good work, side effects come like money, fame and name.”
I did not choose dance; it choose me. I find a comfort level in dance. It is spiritual for me.
They say it takes only a decade to see attitudes change towards anything. Daithankar who is also a teacher, must have seen attitudes of those coming to her to learn change. She calls the world of today as one of fast food. “Some come to me because they saw a certain grace in the dance. Some come to learn and lose weight. These are but a few attitudes. That is why I have limited classes because as a performer, I keep on moving. I make it a point to be present and speak a lot. My pupils see my passion. It is like lighting one lamp with another. I am fortunate to have good students. This is my 25th year as a teacher in Pune and many of my students are pursuing dance as a career. Even while giving exams, many come for the classes.”
Photo Credit: Mid-Day and art2smart.blogspot.com Daithankar recently spoke about the connection of yoga and Bharatnatyam or rather its similarity. She gradually saw the connection between the two and when she had done a performance based on Patanjali’s yoga sutras, it received great response, much to her happiness. “Classical dance is yoga on stage unknowingly. The only difference is that the artist is active and the audience has the meditative spirit. At one point, they will become one.” With a Phd on this just finished, she believes that this subject which is close to her will continue through her work. We hope her passion and performances brighten up the stage and add more grace to Bharatnatyam as a dance form.