“I saw Bala dance.”

This is a statement, I regret to say, I can never make. I have been born much too late – I have only heard of her grace, her fluidity, her abhinaya –

To meet her students is the next best thing. You can see Bala in their movements, in their gestures – the Balasaraswati tradition lives on through them. Nandini Ramani, one of her senior most disciples, is a master herself, and her daughter, Sushma Akka – the torchbearer of this tradition – and I have had the pleasure of watching them dance.

You don’t see adavus being done like that anymore. Kalakshetra and Pandanallur styles have almost been like bullies in a playground – dancer after dancer pushed out in the same mould, carbon copies of each other. Their hands move the same, their heads turn the same – its like a factory line of dancers. These dancers, with their exacting precision, have beauty of their own – but as a whole seem akin to a marching army. Precise, captivating, yet faceless.

These delicate korvais are a breath of fresh air. They don’t jerk, they don’t stomp without reason, they are not a sentence full of interjections – they bloom, they twirl, they flow like silk. Thanjavur is alive again.

As a student of this school of thought, it is a delight, nay honour to witness this, to learn from it, to reaffirm one’s speciality and singularity. One can now return to one’s languorous teermanams and sancharis and know that we belong, again.


Rest and Rust

Its been a week. I have been on a holiday. And I have hated it. I enjoy lazing in front of the TV as much as the next person, but there’s been a certain staleness –

An artist is not an artist, if he’s not creating.

And I can feel my brain cells rubbing their hands and sharpening their teeth as they wait for new ideas, and thoughts and projects. And now finally work begins –

– On Madhava, the mathematician and Madhava, the god, a project where numbers and divinity will unite once again. If Sat was all gloomy, Madhava is certainly brighter. Peacock coloured sarees, strains of the veena, nimble feet, all tied up in gold. An ode to Vishnu.

But the dance eludes me as usual. Now I just wait for the layers to add up –



O moon, listen to me…

A man in love. :) One of the easiest things to talk about and hardest to depict. You don’t want to make him into a caricature, nor make him so subtle that the girl will miss his overtures. But its harder when you are a girl yourself. You have played to death, the girl in love. Her coyness, her demure smiles, creating images of jasmine-d plaits and cotton chequered sarees –


Now to bring a man to life. And do justice to the poet. 



“Kanden manam kollai…”

It is harder than I thought. To cease to be 5 feet tall. To cease to be a woman. To let the audience forget who you are. They must see only the man, lost in his love, telling the moon of the vision he saw today. With her darting eyes and long slender arms, her saree rustling as she walks, her bangles tinkling – a vision she is. The most beautiful one he ever saw. And then to be him – to feel like him, to do what he would do, to tell it like he would tell – to make her shimmer before the audience’s eyes, just like he can see her. I haven’t worked this hard before!

Polishing your technique isn’t hard. Its hard on the body, but its still so simple. You practice, over and over again. But to be another person, not play-act – to be the lyrics. That’s hard. But so much fun. To watch you lose yourself bit by bit, and find a different you. And then to watch the audience smile and cry with you.

Its wonderful being a dancer.


What He Said

O did I not think of you?
and thinking of you,
did I not think and think again of you?
and even as I thought of you
was I not baffled
by the world’s demands
that held me to my work?

O love, did I not think of you,
and think of you till I wished
I were here to sate my passion
till this flood of desire
that once wet the branch of the tall tree
would thin
till I can bend and scoop a drink of water
with my hands?
Auvaiya:r (Kuruntokai 99)



Achy feet

I am strolling about, hunting for the store that will give me my first pair of ballet slippers, eager to find it fast, half-scared they will sense I am not one of them, and not let me have the pink pair. 

I have always wanted to be a ballerina. Most girls do, at some point. I would keep bringing the same book from the library – just to read about the ballets, or see girls in pretty tutus, in breath-taking poses. And I yearned to be one of them.

I am not in a bad place – I dance Bharatanatyam, I love it – and it is a big part of me now, in the way I think. But ballet has always been the one thing I badly wanted.

And then I got a chance.

I was told there are no pink slippers in my size. I will have to buy the black ones. I am telling myself, I am an adult, learning the art is more important than the colour of your shoes, black is so slimming besides – not that I have fat feet..Mercifully, she found a pink pair at the bottom of the pile. I had never prayed so hard, nor thanked God so profusely before.

Buying those pink slippers was the most exciting shopping experience for me ever. Then, the going home and stitching elastic bands to it – being part of these tiny rituals that made a ballerina a ballerina – learning the french terms, executing awkward jumps and shaky pirouettes – there was not a person happier than me.

I dont get to attend ballet as often as I would like (I would like it everyday, and I have attended about four classes in half a year!), but I still stand before the mirror, practising my turnout, hoping very badly, that one day I will dance it.

“Plie is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master.” -Suzanna Farrell

To do a number

“Actually, after while, finding the ideas is the easy part.
Sorting them through and turning them into stories, now, that’s the hard work.”
– Sarah Zettel
I was super enthusiastic about creating a dance piece on mathematics. It sounds interesting and different – and complex. And it is all of that. What it is not, is easy.
The dance is ready in theory, and girls in faded reds on a dark stage are dancing it in my head. And yet every single step eludes me. I know what I want it to look like, and sound like and yet I cant see it, nor hear it. And I am waiting for all the numbers to just add up.
Tracing a theme of hindu philiosphy meets mathematics, this piece bundles up fractals, and triangles, theorems and integers, spirals and triads – to celebrate numbers. I am not a mathematician. Yet more numbers are twirling around me, and tempting me to use them. “I am 3, I am pretty”.
In another fortnight, the chaos will cease and equations be laid from end to end. And numberland will come alive on stage.

Being a dancer

Ashish Shakya

Writer. Stand-up comic. General idiot for hire.

Craft Apple

I sew. I hoard fabric. What do you do?

Melancholic Ecstasy

Life ... Uncensored !

Indian Food Rocks

Being a dancer

Hark, A Vagrant!

Being a dancer

The Ballet Bag

Because ballet ROCKS!

Pointe Til You Drop

Being a dancer

Adult Beginner

It's not pørn; it's ballet