“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.