The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

73° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

    Tapping Feet to a Different Beat

    On September 14, the curious and the adventurous alike came together to witness and experience the complex and beautiful world of the classical Indian dance, Bharatnatyam. The program, known as Chandrashekar, Master of Dance: Understanding the Form in Classical Dance was quite an event especially for beginners who had no experience with the Indian arts. Held in the Wang Center Theatre, the class of AAS 212, along with instructor Malini Srinivasan (who organized the event), Wang Director Sunita Mukhi and anonymous others, gathered to hear respected dance guru and distinguished professor C.V. Chandrashekar, along with wife Jaya, gave a lecture and introductory workshop in the art and history of Bharatnatyam and other various Indian dance forms.

    As spectators and students of all ages donned in cotton tights, yoga pants and t-shirts in the dim theatre waited, 72 year old Prof. Chandrashekar strode in with his lovely sari-adorned wife, and all eyes were on him. It was hard not to pay attention to his confident erect posture in Indian garb being followed by a small throng of admiring students, who obviously were all aware of his accomplishments. After a brief introduction by both Mukhi and Srinivasan, Chandrashekar took control of center stage along with Srinivasan’s class and a curious few others. Although remaining audience members were invited to take part in the workshop, improper dress apparel and extreme shyness kept them from treading on the looming smooth dark floors glistening in the bright stage lighting.

    The program started with Chandrashekar demonstrating basic poses of all Indian dances. After a brief overview, he got the class to plie (like in ballet) with hands at the sides supporting the small of their backs. After a few nervous people got the hang of the structure, Chandrashekar went on to teach them movements associated with Bharatnatyam. Most learners lingered towards the dull lit area on the back of the stage, and seemed afraid to let the audience get a view of their inability to keep up with the rhythm set by Mrs. Chandrashekar hitting a wooden block. The brave and those who lost their space in the back took front stage with a storm, thaka thaing with their feet, while trying to keep up with Chandrashekar. However, there were an impressive few, who seemed to have had previous experience.

    As time progressed, so did the movements and the rhythm. Students soon saw that the art form wasn’t as easy as Chandrashekar made it look. He even joked through the choreography that he ‘felt like [he was] seventeen once more’. The toll the bending and stamping took on the knees of some students made it evident that one really needed stamina, discipline and practice to keep dancing on. After a grueling 45 minutes passed, students were allowed to rest their weary legs as talented instructor Srinivasan was asked to continue the demonstrations of startling rounding knee twirls and extensive foot jumps.

    But the real treat of the evening came about as Chandrashekar demonstrated a piece of his act to his wife’s melodic voice. His form and jumps captured the essence of the vocal’s faltering tones. The audience, taken aback by the performance, clapped with admiration in their eyes.

    The last 30 minutes of the program dealt with a lecture on the history and meaning behind the dance of Bharatnatyam. Perhaps named for the Indian sage Bharata, this is the oldest of classical Indian dances. The dance, supposedly taught by the gods to mankind, was performed in the ancient days for common folk as a portrayal of religious stories for their own understanding; it was a translated version of the fifth Hindu Veda created by the supreme Hindu god, Lord Brahma. Performed solely by female artisans known as devadasis in its earliest years, the South Indian dance has evolved very little, and is performed by both sexes as hobby and performance art entrenched with religious history.

    Chandrashekar made a great emphasis on hand, face and body gestures; all three were necessary in the meaning behind the dance. Students awkwardly practiced surprised looks, and hand poses indicating sunrises and deep thought as he explained that the dance was a language in itself. The dance not only entertained, but all components of the body, including music and vocals, added to the story being told of angered gods and pleased goddesses; this seemed similar to Hula dancing. As Chandrashekar said, ‘dance is a universally understood language; [‘hellip;] Bharatnatyam is a highly emotive dance; without expression of emotion, all meaning is lost.’

    All who gathered applauded the revered Chandrashekar, as some walked offstage on blistered heels. An anonymous student, who was seeing Indian dance for the first time, found himself more interested in the art and had hoped to catch Chandrashekar’s performance on the following Saturday, only to find it had been sold out. For those who didn’t get tickets to the Saturday show, they knew they were missing out.

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *