Everything in my life is inextricably woven in with the multi-coloured textures that make India. And so when The Dance Bible asked me to write a guest post on Bharat Natyam and its benefits for children, I accepted with alacrity.
Also this meant that I got properly introduced to this unique online presence for everything dance www.thedancebible.com. The website and all that it holds, the thought and passion that brought it into being are inspirational.
My ten year old has been learning Bharat Natyam for over a year now and will perform on stage in a few days from now, much to the delight of my entire family. I learned the dance form, for two years in high school and I look back with fondness at that time. Mr. Sarvottam Kamath, our dance teacher got us to learn the nuances, with the right mix of humour and firmness.
What we will delve into today is something many of us know and have an inkling of, that classical dance forms are of immense benefit to the growing child. My inferences here are not from being an expert at the dance at all but as a singing yoga teacher, parent and thinker.
Image Source: www.papertostone.com
Touching upon some primary concerns of parents:
A dance form with a vigorous training regimen when one gets into it seriously or even otherwise, the entire body and face is used while flowing through the movements. It corrects the posture with the torso held upright and strengthens the limbs, muscles and the internal organs. There is a sophisticated vocabulary of hand gestures or Mudras which are aesthetic as well as healthful due to the pressure points being activated and worked on. Circulation and breathing are improved while nurturing confidence in one's own body. This pays huge dividends as children go through adolescence helping them blossom in adults comfortable in themselves.
Originated in the temples of Tamilnadu, Bharat Natyam is universal today. Usually an interpretive narration of Hindu mythology and spiritual texts, it is a pathway to absorbing and owning the stories that are so much a part of our cultural fabric. Children act out the mythology/history which deepens their connection with their roots. Strong roots result in a strong tree, in this case our children and their self-esteem.
This point almost seamlessly flows into the next.
Our children begin to develop a sense of pride in the nation. A nation which has given the world so much by way of art, philosophy, culture, spirituality to name just a few aspects. A sense of national pride is fostered, which coupled with other activities can form the foundation of a strong personality that can stand tall in the face of anything.
There is live or taped Carnatic classical music and traditional instruments to accompany and accentuate the dance. Children are exposed to and learn to appreciate music in its pristine form.
The colourful costume and jewellery could be a factor in drawing a child into learning the dance form initially. Weather they continue to learn and progress of course will depend on many factors. Children may learn of the significance of the jewellery worn, kohl and henna application if the teacher is someone who goes into these intricacies or you can step in and do some online research with your child. This could uncover interesting aspects.
Being or Mindfulness:
The words are much touted today and even if they have almost become cliché, the truth is that this is the one gift each of us needs to give our children. As the material-techno-savvy world races on, prying away our consciousness away from us and into gadgets, the need to learn ways to just BE has become urgent.
While dancing, a child or an adult is brought right into the present moment and into the body with clarity and beauty. The child fully dwells in the actions, the footwork and expressions that are intrinsic to Bharat natyam and without her/his knowledge learns the art of relaxation and ease.
I wonder what Bharat Natyam means to you dear reader and if there is anything you would like to add to the above. Do share your thoughts in the comments section and if you haven’t already done so do think about getting your children to learn Bharat Natyam or for that matter any dance form and reap rich dividends. You could even join a class by yourself or along with your little one.
If anyone is wondering if I ever tried to build on my schooltime learning, yes I did try but was told in so many words that I had to go at a different time to my daughter or else….Not one to take threats lightly, I did the best thing to do in this case and gave in. I began to learn Hindustani classical music instead, a passion that has long demanded appeasement.
I will leave you with some beautiful lines I came across.
Bharata Natyam is an art which consecrates the body the dancer, who dissolves her identity in rhythm and music, makes her body an instrument, at least for the duration of the dance, for the experience and expression of the spirit. The traditional order of Bharata Natyam recital- alarippu,jatiswaram, varnam, padams, tillana and the shloka is the correct sequence in the practice of this art, which is an artistic Yoga, for revealing the spiritual through the corporeal.
—T Balasaraswati, a Bharatanatyam exponent.
About the Author:
Sunila Vig is a yoga teacher who sings and writes.
Her debut collection of short stories in Hindi, "Nirjharr", was published by the Karnataka Hindi Sahitya Parishad.
Poetry and short stories authored by her have been published in a variety of medium.The most recent is the story Vishkanya, which features in the anthology, Sins of the Past, available on Amazon.
She is a Post graduate in English Literature from Kuvempu University in the verdant Malnad region of Karnataka, that has given the world a large number of writers and artists.