By Somrita Ghosh
New Delhi– Mohiniyattam, the Indian classical dance form with its roots in Kerala, has not gained much popularity as other genres forms and sees less practioners because it requires a lot of patience and discipline which people are not ready to devote, dancer Rekha Raju believes.
“The discipline in Mohiniyattam makes it seem difficult for dancers to take to it professionally. There are many movements in this dance form which are slow. It is this patience that the Mohiniyattam requires that makes it different from other the dance forms, especially Bharatanatyam,” Rekha, 30, told IANS in an email interview from Bengaluru, where she is based.
Certain movements of this dance form, like the ‘choula kalam’ require a fast pace and are extremely challenging.
“Mohiniyattam is not about lines. It’s about wonderful circular movements and enchanting dance forms. Not many take to this art form as it requires a lot of discipline. Now, everyone wants to do leaps and swirls with jarring music and I assume that attracts dancers more,” she added.
There is a fine line between vulgarity and grace and for Rekha, replicating the sensuality sans vulgarity is the most difficult aspect of Mohiniyattam.
“Every dance styles final stage is bhakthi but sometimes sensuality becomes a part of many items. Again, the sensuality has to be depicted in a way to make it visually beautiful and not vulgar. This aspect in Mohiniattam is the most difficult,” Rekha highlighted.
According to her, Guru Bharati Shivaji is one of those dancers who has proved to the world that Mohiniyattam is not sensual but graceful.
At the age of three, Rekha entered into the world of classical dance through Bharatanatyam and took shelter under her Guru, Padmini Ramachandran. In no time she managed to get a good hold on the dance form and excelled in it.
“Bharatanatyam was my first love as there were fewer Gurus to teach Mohiniyattam. But it was later my mother who put me on to Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam under one Guru so that I get introduced to the art form and evolve interest and love for the classical dance,” she mentioned.
Mohiniattam came later into her life when she was around 15 and decided to carry on a as soloist. Her roots are in Kerala, so the natural flare towards Mohiniattam evolved in Rekha.
“There are certain legendary artists whom I have been watching as a kid and I was so attracted by damsels dressed in white swaying and moving the eyes so beautifully. I remember standing in front of the mirror and trying to move my eyes,” Rekha recalled on how her love for Mohiniyattam developed.
With masters degrees in business administration and in performing arts, Rekha found the movements of the dance form extremely appealing and feminine.
“The feminised movements of Mohiniyattam suit me the best. The grace, elegance, feminine movements, subtle abhinaya, lasya bhavam — all this makes me delve more and more into the art form,” Rekha noted.
A chartered accountant in the making, Rekha took up classical dancing as her full-time career and in 2004 founded her own dance institution, the NrithyaDhama Temple of Fine Arts, to train students of all categories, whether poor or rich, from rural or from urban areas — all students getting the same knowledge under the same roof.
Rekha also lamented that Mohiniyattam doesn’t have many scholars “maybe because they don’t want to take up the art form or maybe they do not have the right support”. Thus, through her dance school, she is attempting to popularise this dance form.
“As a young artist I try to bring in new compositions into the form, make it communicative for youngsters; make it lively and bring out the importance of Mohiniyattam in life. Dance is a cause for the development of personality as it brings in a lot of internal and external elegance. Every child has to practice one of the classical art forms,” Rekha concluded. (IANS)