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.
“Sincerity, emotional expression and perseverance”: this is what touched one of my students most in her discovery of Indian dance this semester.
I recently completed an introductory odissi course for performing arts students at my city’s university. During the final session, I gave them a questionnaire to ask for their feedback and views on the class. One of the questions was about the elements or aspects of the course that had caught their attention and seemed most useful. Personally, what I appreciate most about teaching this course is that it allows me to take a fresh look at an art form that I’ve been practicing and teaching for over two decades.
In preparing these classes (and, more generally, during my years of teaching in France), I often wondered what really made Indian dance so special, what could be transmitted apart from the technique itself and a long-term training process. The expressive charge of dance, yes, but what else?
And, beyond race, what makes someone’s teaching of indian classical dance authentic? Quite a vast question, isn’t it?
This student’s response led me in precisely this direction, putting my finger on what I believe to be the very essence of Indian performing arts and their authentic transmission: sincerity.
Indeed, insn’t sincerity the core of Indian dance practice: fostering a form of heart-to-heart connection between artist and audience that allows the experience of rasa to transcend time, language and culture?
I believe that this is also what guru-shishiya parampara in its noblest form is all about: a form of open-hearted transmission. Learning Indian dance requires a form of vulnerability and total openness, both towards the art and teaching itself, and towards the person who plays the role of transmitting it.
It is through this trust in the teacher’s abilities, and conversely through the teacher’s trust in the abilities of his or her students, that a form of total openness is created that encourages the imparting of living, vibrant knowledge. Only then can a true inner transformation take place, and the artist and the human being be born and grow together. It is also on this condition, I believe, that abuses can be prevented and avoided.
Far from India, in a completely different context, it seems to me that it is entirely possible to maintain a profound authenticity, not by copying strictly Indian habits through our clothes, our hairstyle, our language or our behaviour, or even in our teaching style, but simply by offering the right conditions to give the student the possibility of tasting this form of sincerity.
And that, I believe, is something unique!
December 14, 2023