I'm a passionate dancer, and I share all my best advice, thoughts and personal experiences in dance and body-conditioning. My aim is to provide dancers around the world with easy-to-read, accessible information that encourages them in their practice.
I remember a few years ago, after posting a dance video in which the song expressed the joy of being in love, I received the reply from a friend: “Oh, you must be in love, you look so happy!”.
Little did he know how far from reality he was! I was going through one of the darkest periods of my life, and at the time, “love” seemed so distant and extinguished. Behind my smile was a very different reality… and his point of view struck me as a stark contrast.
And yet, I wasn’t pretending.
In fact, I was really feeling that emotion as I filmed the video. Through art, I could invoke love and contact this intimate joy: like a refuge, dance was at that moment a safe space where I could, out of time, find it again. Like a reassurance that it all still existed, was still within my reach.
In Indian dance, feelings of romance, despair, longing and desire, but also union and ecstasy, are constantly present, revealing all the nuances of Sringara, the feeling of love. It weaves the multi-layered backdrop to a dense artistic universe in which Krishna is the divine lover and the dancer identifies with Radha, the seeker. Although, she can be both lover and beloved, god and devotee, master and disciple, exploring every facet of her inner world and emotional universe. In this way, she can not only contact these feelings within herself, but also transmit them to the audience or, more precisely, allow them to contact their own in a mirror game.
Ultimately, they lead them to Anand, a feeling of fulfilling joy, or to a kind of deeply satisfying and nourishing bliss.
For a young dancer, it’s no doubt easy to go in search of this divine lover in a flesh partner, to look outside for that feeling of deep union that dance makes possible. What a grand ideal! But isn’t this a never-ending quest?
Whatever the case, it seems to me that, over time, dancers come to understand that all these feelings actually exist within them, despite external circumstances, and that they can therefore be contacted at any time.
You may or may not have a lover, but dance allows you to find love within yourself: what an immense feeling of freedom and relief!
Is this not one of the great powers and mysteries of Indian classical dance?
Being a woman, I’ve written this article in the feminine, but these thoughts also apply to my male colleagues!
Illustration: Painting, Radha and Krishna in the grove, opaque watercolour on paper, Pahari, Kangra, ca. 1780, Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
July 13, 2023