The Tennagur dance camp for dance teachers

This is an article by Mr. Rajendra Kumar. An edited version of this article was published in The Hindu in the year 2005.

‘The only true voyage of discovery is not to go to new places but to have the other eye’said Marcel Proust in Remembrance Of Things Past.

One realised how true this is during the recently held Camp for Dance Teachers by Natyarangam-the dance wing of Narada Gana Sabha at Thennangur. Thennangur- a small village nestled snugly at about 110 kms from Chennai is special for many reasons.

For this writer, this is the third consecutive visit and it is amazing to discover how one is attracted to the camp. It is like the metal and the magnet.

What makes the camp at Thennangur so special ?

Is it the serene, tranquil atmosphere engulfed by the spirit of Swami Haridas Giri taking us from the ephemeral to the ethereal?

Is it the repertoire of the Resource Persons ?

Is it the tantalisingly alluring Lord Panduranga ?

Or is it the convivial attitude of the Natyarangam comittee members led by Shri.Krishnaswamy?

Appreciation of beauty, developing and fine-tuning aesthetic qualities is what makes this camp unique and a cut above the rest.

The camp is not for those who expect a crash-course on Bharathanatyam nor is it for people who want mind- boggling lectures and homilies taxing the intellect. The sessions at the camp look at the intrinsic dimensions of fine arts making the dancers first appreciate the beauty of the art.

After all, what is art? Is it not the expression of human creative talent? And there comes a time when the art and the artiste become inseparable. Such an experience is impossible if the artistes are not connoisseurs.

The typical day in the camp begins with the participants understanding and appreciating their own physical body.The yoga sessions elevate the participants to new heights .The sessions conducted by Guru Shri.Gopalakrishnan in the past(who unfortunately could not make it this time) make one realise the importance of enjoying the postures(sthiram sukham) and the vedic chants.This year the sessions were conducted by the young and energetic Shri.Gomatheeswaran.
Dance is visual poetry. However, how does a dancer understand and appreciate the beauty of Sangam Literature– which has withstood the ravages of time and the very many onslaughts- and the new forms of poetry like Pudukkavithai and Haiku and use these in performances?

Subject experts like Prof.Va.Ve.Subramaniyam and Prof.Raghuraman have the answers. If Prof.Subramaniyam -who was the resource person two years back-spoke on the beauty of Kamban’s and Bharathi’s prompting the participants to dance to the verses immediately without much of a preparation, Prof.Raghuraman’s sessions this year clearly established links between the Sangam poetry and the Natyashastra.One not only enjoyed the poems but also the beauty of appreciating the poems.

The beauty of adavus were brought out during the work-out session. Though the nuances were touched, some basics were also covered .One is more than amazed at the way the sessions were conducted by Prof.Chandrasekhar,the oldest performing Guru performed with dexterity and clarity that this became contagious and some of the hobbling participants shed their indolence and danced. The whole session was a visual beauty with all participants and the Guru dancing in tandem and the hall reverberating with the sound of the feet.

Music is the language of the Universe. When senior musician Smt.Rama Ravi sang some of the padams and javalis during her sessions in her mellifluous voice, it was a treat for the ear. The session by Ravi Kiran , Resource Person last year was also very informative in terms of appreciation of Music. Some of the participants danced spontaneously to the Aalapanai which took us to a different world altogether.

In Bharathanatyam, can one forget the beauty of Rasa?The finer points of Saatvika Abhinaya clearly brought out by stalwarts like Shri.Dhananjayan and Prof.Chandrasekhar was a treat for the eyes. Looking at Shri.Dhananjayan explain the intricacies, and in the process getting transformed, one was reminded of the spell-bound audience at Narada Gana Sabha in Dec’2001 when he performed as Thyagaraja and how the audience cried with him when Thyagaraja discovers that his most beloved Rama idol is lost.

The beauty of colours……well, can a Bharathanatyam recital be complete without proper costumes, make-up and props?Shri.Nagarajan-a well known painter with lot of works including abstract to his credit- explained the importance and significance of each colour.

Smt. Shanta Dhananjayan taught stringing of the bells (salangai) and stringing of the flowers and the participants enjoyed this appreciating the beauty of the act in the process.A mention also must be made of Smt.Pushkala Gopal who conducted the Aaharya sessions last year which reminded one of Management Workshops. After all, beauty can also be managed. Right?

The core of all these is the person without whom nothing moves and in fact exists. Lord Panduranga who displays infinite dimensions of beauty!

It is impossible to believe that the Lord who is in the form of Panduranga with Rukmayi on Thursdays gets transformed into Lord Venkatewara with Padmavathi Thayar on Saturdays .The beauty element aside, can one afford to miss the philosophy in this?

Apart from this pristine beauty, the Garudaservai performed on one of the evenings is an experience of a lifetime. It is impossible to talk about the expression of the hypnotically still Garuda with hands extended and the Lord on his shoulders. The expression can be interpreted in N number of ways.

The dancers dance on the Praakaram to the tunes played on the Nagaswaram and this is spontaneity and beauty going hand in hand.Expressions on the faces of the dancers say it all.

Apart from the Garudaservai, Dolothsawam and Kalyana Urchavam are also performed on different days.

The camp is not complete without the culinary beauty(delight!).Shri.Jeyaraman and his entourage treat us with a rich and nutritious diet and with a very special hospitality which makes one wonder if they are in a Wedding Dining Hall.

The guiding spirit behind all these beauties is Shri.Krishnaswamy, Secretary, Narada Gana Sabha who takes utmost care of each and every participant and is so punctilious that one cannot fail to appreciate the beauty of his organisational and managerial skills.

The quality of the camp conducted every year during the last 5 years has improved to a very great extent. However, it will be nice if the duration of the camp is extended by a couple of days so that the sessions are not crammed.

Going back to Marcel Proust again, year after year the camp succeeds in opening the other eye of the participants to discover beauty…

What more can one ask for?

About The Author:

Mr. Rajendra Kumar is a great rasika of Music and Dance. His illustrious family includes his Father-in-law- Prof. CV. Chandrasekhar and his wife Manjari is a great dancer too. He regularly attends this camp. Please visit his blog to relish his writing and his love for music at http://rajamanjari.blogspot.com/

PS:This year the camp will be organized from Feb.29 to March 2, 2008. (refer to our earlier post)

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