Does the posture that defines Bharatanatyam trigger damage or does it put together the physique for efficiency?
The dance world is obsessive about araimandi — from lecturers and college students to critics. However this isn’t actually a brand new obsession. The ardhamandali or the araimandi stance, with bent knees turned out and physique lowered, central to most Indian dance types, has been round for hundreds of years. And there’s proof of it in sculptures and texts throughout India. The query is how a lot is sufficient.
In response to scholar Dr. V. Raghavan, texts have offered specs relating to the mandala, wherein the toes kind a rhombus. ‘The Sanskrit textual content Nrttaratnaavali (1253 AD) calls this Kharvataa and mentions 12 inches for this decreasing; the Tamil textual content of Aram Valarthu Nadhanaar (Bharata Siddhaantam) says that in the event you measure the space from the nostril to the naval and measure the within distance between the 2 knees bent in mandala, the 2 ought to be equal.’
As any practitioner will inform you, the dance type causes heel, knee and again ache. There’s a examine printed in Indian Anthropologist (1998) by Joyce Paul and Satwanti Kapoor that claims 35% of the Bharatanatyam dancers surveyed (a small pattern of 70) appear to have had accidents attributable to dancing, the knee being probably the most affected. They blame the araimandi, equating it to the demi-plie of ballet, which is thought to trigger damage. They observe that the dancers with restricted exterior rotation on the hip are those most affected. Kuttanam, the forceful stamps, and the cement or stone apply flooring are the opposite culprits.
Dance or dancer?
Who’s at fault? The dancers or the dance type? The authors of the examine argue that for the reason that dance custom goes again 1,500 years, the ideas of yoga would have been considered, however not the ideas of anatomy and modern-day physiology. In addition they say that the construction, ‘quite than being primarily based on practical anatomy, lays its basis on the aesthetic great thing about traces and angles shaped by the various positioning of angas or the completely different elements of the physique.’
The same opinion is expressed by scholar Kapila Vatsyayan in her e-book, Indian Classical Dance, “The Indian dance is just not involved with the musculature of the human kind, however quite, just like the sculptor, takes the joints and basic anatomical bone-structure of the human kind as its foundation.”
Dancers who’ve had the privilege of working with nattuvanars, the standard repositories of Bharatanatyam, disagree that the dance type could also be flawed. Vyjayanthimala Bali (disciple of Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai, Ok.P.Kittappa Pillai and Ok.N.Dhandayuthapani Pillai), Nandini Ramani (disciple of Kandappa Pillai, T. Balasaraswati and Ok. Ganesan) and Alarmel Valli (disciple of Pandanallur Chokkalingam Pillai and Pandanallur Subbaraya Pillai) emphasise the hours of apply that put together the physique. Lakshmi Viswanathan (disciple of Kanjeevaram Ellappa Pillai) says that although the nattuvanars dominated with an iron rod, that they had a knack of instructing every dancer in line with her capacity. Nritta was not given the significance it’s given now, varnam korvais had been measured and transient, and the jatiswaram was gradual and ideal.
Gradual and regular
Within the Kandappa Pillai-Balasaraswati type, the fundamental course was three-four years lengthy. Nandini says, “Araimandi was essential. The main target was first on nritta. We had greater than 100 adavus, and we used to practise them in three speeds, from Monday to Saturday for 2 hours or extra. It began with footwork. It took greater than a yr for arm actions, kai, to be allowed. We thought-about it an achievement. It was a gradual means of coaching; we had been by no means overfed or spoon-fed. Until you will have gone by this type of coaching, the shaping of the physique won’t occur. I really feel heel or again ache is especially as a result of inappropriate or flawed posture from the start.”
Vyjayanthimala echoes the significance of coaching. “We didn’t omit a single element,” she says. Within the Thaiyya Thai set, we practised all 10. We had 72 adavus. The adavu basis with araimandi, the muzhumandi to araimandi motion, straight elbows with out sagging, all had been necessary. I used to be a very good pupil and Guru Kittappa was pleased with me. I might not sit down or drink water throughout apply. I might dance in entrance of the mirror to get it proper. Adavu sutham and anga sutham had been most necessary. Laya additionally — the salangai and the talam needed to go collectively, the mridangam would comply with the toes.’
Alarmel Valli has extra learnings from her gurus. “Guru Chokkalingam taught us the distinction between drive and lightness and energy and charm. For the Paichal Adavu, he would say, whenever you take off it ought to be forceful, however your touchdown ought to be like a flower falling. You can’t discover these aesthetic ideas in books; solely the repositories of this tradition had been capable of transmit it to their college students. They taught us body-friendly ideas and wove sure safeguards into the approach. To carry out a margam, I might practise for 90 minutes to construct up stamina. That is extra necessary than rehearsals.”
Recalling how dancers of an earlier period like Pandanallur Jayalakshmi danced by the day consuming solely pazhedu (fermented rice), Valli says they consecrated their lives for dance. “I’ve danced for 50 years on a cement flooring, each within the dance class at Egmore and later, when Subbaraya Pillai sir got here dwelling to conduct courses. Whereas I did have spondylitis, I by no means suffered any debilitating accidents or ache that stored me from doing justice to the dance. This was positively because of the footwork approach imparted by my gurus, of hanging the ground primarily with the entrance of the toes. The resultant sharper, extra cadenced sound was generated from the hole of the toes quite than the heels. This emphasis on the usage of vallinam and mellinam, or mild and shade in footwork, spared me main knee and spinal accidents.
“For the araimandi, we had been taught to place the toes in a large, obtuse angle, a large V, quite than as a straight line, at a full 180 levels. The knees, nonetheless, needed to be open and turned effectively outwards. This helped us preserve the araimandi stance extra comfortably, with out undue strain exerted on the heels to keep up steadiness. I keep in mind my Guru, Chokkakingam Pillai, saying that very excessive arches weren’t conducive to the sort of stamping that Bharatanatyam requires. I too have observed in my courses that always college students with excessive arches undergo ache within the ball of the foot. I’ve low arches myself and I really feel it has been helpful.”
Valli too developed a heel damage, however that was solely after energetic apply on a cement flooring for 25 years. Given her busy efficiency schedule, the dancer, apart from taking on a therapeutic yoga routine, wore a skin-coloured cotton sock on her left foot with the toes lower off for higher traction.
“Fortuitously, nobody observed. It’s a must to practise with the proper of approach. Imbalance results in stress and damage, as additionally psychological stress. After all, we had a way more leisurely and contemplative life with out the tyranny of social media,” says Valli.
The one approach that was emphasised in Kalakshetra in line with Professor C.V. Chandrasekhar and Jaya Chandrasekhar was to tuck your backside in (they known as it the dhobi bundle), necessary for physique centring and placing much less strain on the knees. The reasoning is that if we lean ahead we are able to sit extra, however this results in flawed weight distribution. By the way Kalakshetra’s previous campus within the Theosophical Society campus had largely mud flooring in its cottages.
With the passing away of many of the old-school nattuvanars, we’ve got misplaced part of historical past and an irreplaceable data financial institution. It could be a good suggestion to attempt to collate their philosophies whereas additionally establishing a normal physique strengthening protocol to help dance coaching. It could possibly be primarily based on yoga. Any takers?