Bharatanatyam Concert at iTeach Ahilya Devi Holkar School, Aundh by Dr. Swati Daithankar and disciples
I am Sayali, and I was a member of the audience earlier this afternoon for the Bharatanatyam concert by Dr. Swati Daithankar at iTeach Ahilya Devi Holkar School. This event was organized under the aegis of Baithak Foundation, Pune. Baithak Foundation does a tremendous job of reaching out to different sections of our society through Indian Classical Music, by curating concerts, workshops and guided listening sessions, especially for school children.
Swati Taai commenced the session by giving us a tiny introduction to the classical dance style of Bharatanatyam. She explained how Bharatanatyam finds its origins in the temples of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, and that it was created by Lord Shiva, in the form of Lord Nataraj. She introduced to us her three disciples, the dancers who were going to perform.
The first composition to be presented was ‘Pushpaanjali’, literally meaning a handful of flowers to be offered in worship. We learnt that Bharatanatyam was traditionally performed by devadasi-s, who practiced this art form as a form of offering to the deity. Swati Taai informed us that when a dancer presents the art before an audience, the spectators are likened to the deity, and thus, the relationship between the dancer and the audience becomes sacred.
After a beautiful rendition of ‘Pushpanjali’, we moved on to listening to a story about the birth of Bharatnatyam. This was very interesting! Swati Taai has a very conversational style of sharing, and she constantly engaged with the audience, most of whom were high school students of the school. It was pretty evident that the children were enjoying themselves, watching, listening and participating.
The story of the conception of Bharatnatyam concluded with holy chant of ‘Om Namah Shivaay’, which naturally led to the following piece of choreography – a dance that drew from and elaborated upon each element of the chant, namely Om, Namah, and Shivaay.
‘Jati’ came next in line. Tai described how sometimes, gestures, movements and compositions can be employed for the sole purpose of beautification and ornamentation, as well as other times, they can be used to depict specific emotions, actions, situations. Swati Taai recited the Jati, and her students demonstrated the footwork and hand movements. After that, Swati Taai explained how subtle emotions can emerge just by the movement of the eyes and face, and demonstrated the ashta-rasa through it. It was a treat to watch!
The program came to an end with a dance by Swati Taai. As an example of ‘karun rasa’, she presented an abhang (devotional song in Marathi) by saint Kanhopatra, ‘Aga Vaikunthichya Raaya’. The concert was very enriching for the students, and had the right mix of knowledge, performance, and excitement.