The recent seminar on dance music emphasized mindful listening, emotional connectivity, and developing unique artistic styles.
According to Abhinayadarpana, a dancer should not only be well-versed in Nritha, Nritya, and Natya but also be capable in music. Taking a cue from this ancient treatise, “Naatyam Sangeetham”, a two-day seminar on a rare topic, dance music, held at Tripunithura recently, shed light on the intricate relationship between Natyam and Sangeetam and how both art forms complement each other to make a performance successful.
Mavin Khoo, a Malaysian-born Bharatanatyam dancer and disciple of the dance maestro Adayar K Lakshman, and veteran vocalist O S Arun explored various nuances and shared their perspectives on how music shapes, inspires, and sustains the dancer. On the first day, Khoo’s narrative painted a vivid picture of his formative years, revealing a profound connection between dance and music in the realm of Bharatanatyam.
Khoo fondly reminisced about his performances with O S Arun, where they converged on a shared platform with a common intention, where adavus and chollus harmoniously complemented each other. This, he stressed, is the essence that should exist between a singer and a dancer. He credited this training to his guru, emphasizing Lakshman’s role as a music-centric mentor, transcending the conventional boundaries between dance and music education.
In a departure from traditional methods, Lakshman instilled deep musicality in his students by incorporating alapana and niraval before delving into dance choreography. Khoo reflected on the guru’s preference for teaching the composition musically before the corresponding choreography, emphasizing the importance of absorbing the melodious structure of the sahitya, the precision of kalapramanam, and the proportional balance between the two.
An intriguing facet of Khoo’s discourse was his emphasis on the importance of energy and sensitivity in singing. He advised that focusing on these elements while articulating a particular note could elevate a performance by 25 percent. To achieve this heightened expression, he advocated for a mindful approach to listening to music and underscored the significance of singing an alap before delving into the composition. However, one should not over-choreograph also.
Delving into the intricacies of dance communication, Khoo cautioned against the over-reliance on stylised hasta mudras, urging dancers to embrace natural, unstylised gestures that resonate more authentically with the audience. His insightful perspective added a layer of emotional connectivity, emphasizing the need for dancers to strike a balance between conventional expressions and organic gestures.
Finally, Khoo shed light on the significance of jathi and kanakku, emphasizing that dancers must not merely recreate choreographies but instead focus on a unique approach to entering a line and facilitating the kanankku. This includes a thoughtful consideration of the use of brigas, balancing the quantity and quality for a harmonious outcome.
The second day of the dance music seminar with O S Arun unfolded a fascinating exploration of the intricacies involved in singing for dance, accompanied by insights into the creation of a unique dance-singing style. Arun, a singer who embarked on his journey at a young age, candidly shared his evolution, moving beyond stressing ragas and sangathis to crafting a style that seamlessly complements the dancer’s footwork.
He explained the significance of voice modulation, strategic pauses, and thoughtful fillers that emerged as essential components in creating captivating dance music. He elucidated the art of selecting the apt raga for the sahityam, emphasizing the need for alignment between the raga, the poetry’s language, and the emotional nuance the sahityam demands. Arun underscored the importance of aesthetics in shaping one’s unique bani, drawing inspiration from seniors and gurus while infusing personal style into the performance.
A critical aspect Arun highlighted was the necessity for critical thinking within tradition. Citing the example of the javali “Smarasundarangi,” he urged singers to rectify technical errors that may have crept into the repertoire over time. This objective approach, he argued, enhances and preserves the integrity of the art form.
The seminar delved into the nuanced use of ragas to convey diverse emotions, revealing how a single raga could evoke compassion, humor, or grandeur based on the interpretation. Arun stressed that both singers and dancers must comprehend the aesthetics embedded in the composition, with singers understanding the sahityam’s meaning and dancers grasping the musical intricacies for harmonious collaboration.
The two-day seminar concluded with an electrifying performance by Mavin Khoo and O S Arun, a perfect blend of dance and music. Opening with the renowned Athana composition “Balakanakamaya,” Khoo’s mesmerizing footwork set the tone for the evening. Tanjore Quartet’s famous varnam “Sakhiye indha velayil” in Anandabhairavi, showcased Khoo’s expressive mukhaabhinaya and rhythmic explorations. Continuing the quest for Krishna, Khoo delved into the Ashtapadi “Sakhiye Keshi Madanamudaram,” expertly portraying Radha’s parakriya encounter. The emotive storytelling extended to Paapanasam Sivan’s “Naan oru vilayattu bommaya,” where Khoo’s deep connection with the character left the audience immersed in the emotional depth of the performance. Final item, the Swati Padam “Chaliye Kunjanamo Padam,” showcased Khoo’s artistic finesse.
Accompanied by Vijayakumar on Nattuvangam, Kiran R Pai on Mridangam, and T V Sukanya on the violin, the programme was conducted by Paravaikhari and Natayaroopika in association with Artchemy Foundation.