In conversation with Bharatanatyam legend - Saroja Vaidyanathan | The Dance Bible
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In Conversation With Bharatanatyam Legend - Saroja Vaidyanathan

Saroja Vaidyanathan

Ganesa Natyalaya, Guru SarojaVaidyanathan's dance institution in Delhi is celebrating a marathon of Bharatanatyam dances by artistes from India and abroad to celebrate Guru ji's 80th Birthday. The marathon will be a 27-hour non-stop melee of Bharatanatyam dance pieces. We are honoured to interview Dr. Vaidyanathan ji, talking about the event, her inspirations and early life, and the current generation of young dancers.


Vaidyanathan ji, you have been dancing for decades now - a renowned Bharatanatyam danseuse, teacher, choreographer, author - how has your relationship with the dance form evolved over the years?

Every year this relationship only deepens and deepens- whether it is through my choreographies with groups or for solo dancers - whether it is my own dance- whether it is my writing on dance. The cliché often goes that these arts are oceans and we have just tasted a few drops of their offerings. It is so true. The more you delve into them the more you get- the more you get the more you realize that you are just a medium for this artform.

We are going to see a unique dance marathon this 23rd Sep, 27 hours of non-stop Bharatanatyam from artistes from all over the world – what inspired such an idea, and how was the process of realizing it?
Why have a party only for your 80th birthday where people come eat drink and be merry? Why not allow dancers around the world and in India to practice their art and have a great platform to showcase this work of theirs? Isn’t that the best way to celebrate your 8 decades on earth? I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my special year of turning 80!

You have been acknowledged for experimenting and pushing the boundaries within the traditional framework of Bharatanatyam. How important, do you feel, it is for the Indian Classical dances to explore contemporary ideas to engage the younger audience?
It is so interesting-this contemporaryClassical question. What is really contemporary? What is really Classical? Sure, we use ancient knowledge of hand gestures facial expressions and footwork that forms the framework of a particular art form- but that same tool box can be used to showcase mythological stories or stories of global warming. However- even our mythological stories if interpreted correctly have such deeper meanings relevant to contemporary situations. It is truly upto the Guru and the disciple to learn how to present and explain a particular piece to make it relevant for younger audiences.

Ganesa Natyalaya, maintains the traditions of the Guru Shishya Parampara. Has it been difficult to sustain this long-established custom? Do the students learning under you understand its significance?
Relationships with disciples’ changes between generations- we would be so scared to even open our mouth in front of our Guru Smt Lalitha in those days of youth. Today my girls even whatsapp me and say 'hi guruji whatsup!' They go for eating pastries with me- generally having a good time. But yes, age old traditions of touching the feet of the Guru or trusting in the Gurus advice and knowledge are definitely followed at Ganesa Natyalaya- but I also like the fact that my disciples question me and are not afraid to speak their minds in agreement or disagreement with me. It makes for a healthy environment.

You have seen the dance industry grow and evolve, what future do you foresee for Bharatanatyam dance and in general the Classical Art forms. What advice would you give to young dancers who want to pursue this as a career?
This art form is here to stay- if anything technology has exacerbated the process. The world needs spiritual balms and these art forms provide just that solace. I would tell youngsters- by all means if dance as a career seems to be your calling then just go with it. It is not at all an easy path to follow but it is a beautiful journey. Be patient and remember that hard work does pay- somewhere or the other.

Thank you Dr Vaidyanathan ji for taking out the time, and inspiring all of us with your words. We take this opportunity to wish a very Happy Birthday and wish you all the love, happiness, success and health for years to come.

Join in the celebration, dancers! A non-stop Bharatanatyam marathon is coming to town!

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