The beauty of the Indian Classical dance form is its vocabulary - both in terms of complex techniques and the expressions assisted by stylized hand gestures. Its grammar is deeply codified, which facilitates one to explore and express ideas and themes based on religious, traditional, mythological and contemporary concepts.
This book is based on the ancient Indian text 'Abhinayadarpanam' and explains the diverse language of the feet positions, making it easy and interesting for students to know about our ancient dance technique as well as the learning process of dance theory. 'Abhinayadarpanam' is an important text based on the Natya Shashtra written by Nandikeshwara around 1000 AD, and focusing mainly on the technique of dance. However, the literary content of the text does not have any detailed illustrations explaining a practical method to learn the hand gestures (Hasthas) and feet positions (Paadha Bhedhaah) for Indian classical dance.
The detailed, systematic illustrations of Paadha Bhedhaah (Feet movements) can be utilized by dancers belonging to any form of dance be it classical or contemporary depending on their individual capacity and creativity in expression.
The book features original Sanskrit text from the Abhinayadarpanam, with corresponding English pronunciations, word-to-word translations as well as phrasal meanings. These are accompanied by close to a thousand photographic illustrations. A multimedia DVD is also available as support material for the book, as are other publications on dance by Smt. Jayalakshmi Eshwar.
Internationally acclaimed Bharatanatyam exponent- Jayalakshmi Eshwar, is a performer, choreographer, teacher and an author. Her in-depth and meticulous training with Late Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale under the aegis of Kalakshetra, Chennai, has made her style innovative yet traditional.
Jayalakshmi Eshwar and her dance troupe 'Abhinayaa’, have performed extensively in India and abroad, winning great laurels for their excellence. She has the creative genius to demonstrate the nuances of the art form, while enhancing the understanding and appreciation of the audiences.
Her diverse group choreographies have won her critical acclaim for productions like Nadopasana, Nritya Rupam, Tat Tvam Asi, Mystical Seven, 'Varuna' - The Savior of Water, Antariksha Sanchar (on ancient aeronautics), 'The Awakening' - a fusion of classical dance and electronic arts, and the fairy tale - 'Snow White' in Hindi for children.
She is the Head of the Bharatanatyam Dept at Triveni Kala Sangam - a premier institution for fine arts in New Delhi. She has been a Senior Fellow for the Sangeet Natak Akademi, besides various awards from cultural organizations across the country and abroad. An empaneled Artiste of ICCR and 'A-Top' graded Artiste of Doordarshan Kendra, she is a resource expert for CCRT (Ministry of Culture) and associated with various universities of Fine Arts. She has also worked with the hearing impaired for several path breaking productions.
Her internationally acclaimed contribution to Bharatanatyam were her two instructional books- 'Bharatanatyam - How To ... ' (published by BRPC) - a self-teaching manual for students on learning the nuances of Bharatanatyam dance form, and 'Hastha Prayogaah' - on the vocabulary of Hand Gestures in Bharatanatyam. Both the books are complete with instructional audio and video DVDs. She has also designed and produced a unique educational/Card Game' for young children, based on all the classical dance forms. She is the writer of the Bharatanatyam section in the NCERT, Govt. of India publication 'Arts Education' - a Resource Book for Teachers. She has released 25 episodes of an AV show - 'Language of Dance; - for the ClET (NCERT).
Presently residing in New Delhi, India, she continues to perform, teach and create valuable content that takes classical dance to the new age.
Bharata Natyam became regulated and systematised as it was considered a craft to be studied and mastered. This concept makes it stand apart from the folk dances of Tamil Nadu which were always free- wheeling in approach, and informal in learning. The systematization of Bharatanatyam began very early in our cultural history as is evident in texts like the Natya Sastra (Sanskrit) which influenced literary works like the Silappadikaram (Tamil). Of the later texts, the Abhinaya Darpana by Nandikeswara, which is just about a thousand years old, appears to be the source of the technique of dance as we know it today.
Many of us believe that an oral tradition passed on from Guru to Sishya was all along in existence, guiding the writers of manuals. Almost as a reversal of that practice, today a practical knowledge of dance relies on texts for authentication. When explained and illustrated, in simple terms, and in a language well understood, technique becomes a solvable riddle. While a "Guru-Parampara" method of teaching with the watchful eyes of the Guru is irreplaceable, the fast world of today allots less time for students with a teacher. Therefore, a guiding manual, with visuals in both pictures and discs, is a worthy tool.
The unique features of Bharatanatyam are broadly speaking Nrtta and Nrtya. Identifiable postures foot positions and body movements are knit closely with detailed footwork in Nrtta. Furthermore gestures and specific movements linking all the "angas" of the body from head to toe define the character of Bharatanatyam. The strength of this distinctly recognizable technique is what gives the dance its character, its texture and its visual beauty. Rhythm in time and space harmonises the dance. This framework is the strong foundation upon which all other attributes of the dance are built whether it is narration or dramatic denouement, evocative mood, or emotive communication a basic technique which is flawless is imperative. Without such a framework, a performance of dance will not be able to fulfil its aesthetic goals.
Jayalakshmi Eshwar, has understood the importance of a strong foundation for Bharatanatyam and come up with the present book on "Paadha Bhedhaah" based on Abhinaya Darpana. Being herself master of technique belonging to Kalakshetra, it is indeed a pleasure to see her telling illustration Not all dancers take time off from performing to write and publish books of value based on their research and experience. Jayalakshmi stands out as one among the few thinking artists who wants to enrich the knowledge bank of dance in India. A very easily understandable book, the present volume is a must for every dance school and student of Bharatanatyam. Today this extends to many countries around the world. After all, Bharatanatyam has become synonymous with Indian dance. For sheer geometry and beauty in minimal kinetics, this dance form is unbeatable. I wish the book all success and expect more such meaningful contributions from Jayalakshmi.
Dance, at its most elemental, can be termed as "Kavya"- any experience with beauty as its core. Dance is both "Orishya" and "Shravya" Kavya (visual and aural).The beauty of the Indian Classical Dance form lies in its vocabulary which includes both complex techniques and expressions with the help of stylized hand gestures. Its grammar is well codified which facilitates the exploration and expression of any ideas and themes besides religious, traditional, mythological and contemporary themes. The antiquity of the classical dance form dates back to Vedic period and the Treatises. The main scripture being Sage Bharata's Natya Shastra, which is a treatise on Theatre Art / Drama, written around (400BC - 400AD) and according to few scholars between the seventh and ninth Century AD. The term Natya refers to "Theatre Art." Music and dance were an integral part of drama proper. Drama itself was presented in a dance form. Abhinayadarpanam is another important text based on Natya Shastra written by Nandikeshwara, around 1000AD, focusing mainly on the technique of dance .The literary content of the text does not have any detailed illustrations explaining the practical know-how.
As a student in Kalakshetra, Chennai, studying in a gurukul system, during the time of my Guru and mentor Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, dance theory was an integral part of our learning process of the classical dance form Bharatanatyam. Apart from Natya Shastra, the main text book referred to was the Abhinayadarpanam especially with regard to Hasthas (hand gestures) and their applications and also the Paadha Bhedhas (Feet Movements). The original text translated by few scholars has Sanskrit slokas and their general meanings in English, but it does not illustrate the applications nor does it have word to word translations. This made the contribution of the Guru/Teacher extremely important in understanding these applications; these were thus taught over time in a leisurely manner till the student understood the subject in depth. The students had time to make their own notes and sketches and the flexibility to use their own abbreviations and notations for better understanding.
In the present age, lack of time is inescapable. Hence a reference book with detailed illustrations along with audio and video support becomes a necessary tool for ensuring effective learning. In my opinion a book can be more easily referred to as compared to video, which requires a 'support system' for viewing. I also felt that the detailed illustrations of Paadha Bhedhas (Feet Movements) can be utilized by dancers belonging to any form of dance - be it classical, semi classical, modern or contemporary- depending on their individual capacity and creativity.This book is an attempt to make it easier and also interesting for students to understand and appreciate our ancient dance techniques as well as the learning process of the dance theory. The book has original Sanskrit text from the Abhinayadarpanam, Sanskrit rendered in English script,word to word translations as well as phrasal meanings along with detailed photo illustrations. A DVD is also available as support material.
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