Falling In Love with Indian Dance & It’s Evolution with Indira Kadambi – Part 2 of 2
Here’s the long awaited PART 2 of our Q&A with Indira Kadambi, a brilliant and delightful Bharatanatyam artist, choreographer and educator. She was recently back in the Washington, D.C. area working with the Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Company. So the perfect time to once again highlight an expert in the field and a wonderful spirit!
If you enjoyed PART 1, you will enjoy the rest as Indira akka talks about her experiences teachings students the world over, as well as some surprising, and very cool hobbies! Happy reading.
What are the differences in your experience, teaching students in India versus abroad? Any interesting stories?
Surprisingly, very few students in India are committed to a focused learning of the art form. Maybe some are learning because their parents force them to learn. This is the case with Indians living abroad too. Most students today are focused on quantity rather than quality. They all are very eager to perform but not interested enough to understand and explore the art form in depth. Even if they are interested, they don’t want to take it up as profession, the reason being it is difficult to make a living!. How unfortunate! Whereas, in my experience most westerners are very passionate, committed and hard working too. I do agree some of them absolutely have no idea about the quality of Bharatanatyam. They think Bollywood dance is Bharatanatyam. But in general, lot of awareness about the art form has been created. Some of them are really passionate. They leave their lucrative jobs, save money and come all the way to India to just Dance! Slowly the number of dancers in India is also increasing and they are finding their own venues and platforms to perform and teach.
Once I was teaching a German student. Germans by nature are very stiff. When I taught a Padam, where the heroine forgives her beloved who has had a relationship with another woman and come back, she was bent upon not forgiving him!! But we can’t do what we feel like. This is the poet’s view. We need to do justice to the poetry. So, I had to convince her to choose another composition, where she rejects him. So, sometimes students bring in their own experiences, which is nice to observe. Another student says Abhinaya classes are like therapy for her!! She can take out all her anger in such compositions!
I have a lot of fun while teaching especially French and Italians. We exchange lot of common phrases that are used in both cultures. Once, when I was explaining a Javali, where a young girl says how can I control my mind when I see a handsome man? Do you want me to be inside the house all the time and just worship God instead of having a look at him? Immediately, my Italian student said “ Oh! You want me to be a nun!” That’s the phrase they use in Italy. There is lot of cultural exchange that takes place. The students completely transform themselves in their daily routine too. They wear a Sari, go to temple, wear flowers, put Kumkum, and take blessings from Gurus. It is amazing to see how much respect they have for Indian culture.
In yet another workshop, a young teenage girl was so proud. Her body language showed that she dances well and what is there left to learn in my class. I just silently observed her. I took more interest in giving her suggestions wherever she went wrong. Then she realized how little she knew! How big the Art is. Then there was totally a different bonding experience from then on. In another instance, a westerner, who was a devotee of Lord Krishna refused to learn compositions other than Krishna. I had to convince her to See Krishna in Muruga too!
So, at different points of time, I need to wear different caps with different students – Teacher, Friend, Parent, Guide, Philosopher and some times I become a student! There is so much to learn from everyone. Learning never stops!
You have some really cool hobbies like mountaineering! Can you tell us a little bit about it and how you got into it! Does it relate to your dancing at all?
Yes. I am so passionate about trekking that I decided to become an aspiring mountaineer. I finished the Advance level of Mountaineering in Nehru Institute of Mountaineering at Uttarkashi and summited a few peaks too. Apart from this, I was very much into long distance cycling!
Both these experiences gave me an opportunity to address thousands of students on the “Journey of self – discovery” by empowering one’s own-self.
Anything else you would like to share about your work and e-Ambalam?
eAmbalam – It has been an exciting journey treading the unexplored area of online performing arts education, tiding over tremendous challenges along the way to launch what is the world’s first Online College of Arts.
We have curriculum-based Diploma courses, Short term Certificate courses in Karnatic Vocal, Bharatanatyam, Yoga and One-to-One training in other forms of Indian Classical music including instrumental and percussion music.
I would also like to mention our vibrant community SaMaaGaMa, which is the name of our community portal (www.eambalam.com/samaagama ) and also Chennai’s Unique Outdoor Festival of Arts (www.samaagama.org) which we hold every year in the Nageshwara Rao park in December. Here, the common people get to participate and interact in the workshops conducted by stalwarts. The experience so far of sharing freely with the community through our online and on the ground events has been more than satisfying and keeps us focused on our vision of “Creating Artists Everywhere.”
On a personal note, dance is a journey that never ends – Beautiful, charming, fascinating, soul searching, divine, but sometimes challenging, rough, ugly, depressing. Some times you stand strong like a mountain facing all the odds and sometimes you will be washed away with the strong water currents. But still it is your journey! An ever-lasting journey of dance; Journey of life! At some point in your journey, all these emotions and experiences of life flow through in the works that we create; music that we compose; compositions that we perform; artists that we collaborate with; space that we dance in and dance within.
We live Dance! THE DANCE OF LIFE!