Photography – Avinash Pasricha
I’m a Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer and teacher. I’ve been dancing since I was 5 years old which makes it over 25 years of dancing. I also love to experiment with cooking. If I was not a dancer, I may have been a professional chef, although at one time I wanted to deep dive and research on different shark species! I’m an optimistic and more or less happy person, and I enjoy hard work. On other fronts, I like travelling, and feel serene anywhere near an ocean, although I love the mountains too. I’m also not very good at talking about myself which is why the above paragraph is a bit random (apologies).
– Please tell us about your work.
I’m a Bharatanatyam dancer who is trying to break boundaries between the ancient and modern, the traditional and contemporary etc., in dance. I’ve travelled extensively all over India and the world performing as a soloist.
More recently, over the last few years, I started my own dance company ‘Vyuti’ which means weave, that seeks to explore the modern within the traditional in the Bharatanatyam idiom. Vyuti was completely self-built from scratch and has now gained some amount of recognition in the dance world of Bangalore.
Vyuti examines the traditional form of Bharatanatyam, usually performed solo – through a contemporary lens, and through group work. We focus on secular narratives and weave modern elements of dance into the traditional vocabulary of Bharatanatyam. As a soloist as well, I’m exploring new and undiscovered choreographic narratives such as the metaphysical poetry of Annamacharya, quite different from the love poetry one often sees in classical Indian dance.
I’ve also recently choreographed a piece on love, betrayal and forgiveness on the legendary Kishori Amonkar’s famous Raag Bhoop. Apart from performing and choreographing, I also teach children and adults at my home. And I occasionally give talks, lectures, lec-dems at dance institutions and seminars on dance. I recently gave a tedX talk as well on the history of dance.
This year, my work led me to perform for the Vice President of India in July, and for Congress President Sonia Gandhi, former PM Manmohan Singh in November for Indira Gandhi’s 100th birth anniversary. I’ve also been awarded a small token of appreciation from Chennai – the Natya Kala Mani award for my contributions to dance and I performed at the prestigious Serendipity Arts Festival as well. Vyuti also premiered its new work ‘Sakhi’ this year, a piece that focuses on the relationship between the nayika (heroine) and her sakhi (friend) – two strong female protagonists of the Indian classical dance narrative. The premiere of this performance fetched us a standing ovation in Bangalore.
– Was it your dream to choose this profession?
– Tell us a little about your educational background.
Went to school in Delhi at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya from Nursery till the 12th standard, did my BA from St Stephen’s College, Delhi University, then studied ballet and contemporary dance at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, UK. After this, I also completed my Diploma in dance from the Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bangalore. Finally, I did my masters at Oxford University, UK where the focus of my masters thesis was finding multiple modernities within Bharatanatyam.
– Who/What was your inspiration?
I’ve never been able to answer that question. I don’t think there is any one person or one thing that has inspired me. I get inspired by a lot of things – sometimes its people I know, sometimes its well known artists, it could be a beautiful painting, or a moving film. It could even be the sight and sound of the waves of the ocean. Honestly, inspiration can come from so many places that I wouldn’t be able to give one conclusive answer to this question.
– Tell us about your milestone journey. How did it all begin?
I guess when I started, choreographing was a bit of a milestone for me. It all began because I got weary of performing pieces created by other people. These other people are great artists, there’s no mistake about it, but at some point, I had that itch to create something of my own. I’d done small choreographies before, of course, but I wanted to create something solid. That’s when in 2013, Vyuti came into my mind. When I started creating the work, I cautiously chose my dancers and began teaching them about Vyuti, its sensibility and ideology, and its choreography in 2014. It took us 2 years to fully create, understand and perform Vyuti’s work for the first time in 2016. After that, its been like an avalanche. Choreography after choreography, show after show. It’s been non-stop working, networking, managing, financing (finding funds, sponsorship), PR and so much more!
– Please tell us about the hurdles and challenges you faced along the way?
I faced two big hurdles, both connected with one another, and both not unique to me as a choreographer –
2. Keeping a stable group of dancers