LLaunching this blog is like a small contribution that I wish to make to the world of dance . My purpose here is not only to share information about myself but also make you all a part of my journey as a dancer – a journey in search of beauty and purpose.

Dance for me ..

is a heightened aesthetic experience…

a poetry of movements and melody…

It is a painting of space and time…

Can be likened to a dialogue between a body and spirit….

Through this blog I wish to communicate with you, all that I think and experience about dance in my life and the world that surrounds me.

This space also gives me an opportunity to not only explore myself as a dancer but also as a human being….

I wish to thank Sri. Ram Niwas for designing this blog ; Mr. Rajesh Goyal for Vilasini Natyam picture; Mr. Kiran Pasricha for Bharatanatyam picture; and my mother Kamalini Dutt for critically reviewing my blog contents.

Initiation & Instruction

Her Gurus…
From the age of four her mother Smt. Kamalini Dutt, senior disciple of Guru Sikkil Ramaswamy Pillai, has trained her in the Tanjavoor style of Bharatanatyam. She received training in the Kalakshetra style from Smt. Radhika Shurajit, premier student of the Dhananjayans, for over twelve years. Presently Purva is undergoing training in Vilasini Natyam from Padmabhushan Smt. Swapnasundari. Purva has had the privilege to work under the guidance of Dr.Mamata Niyogi Nakra on the pedagogy of child friendly dance.


Please use the Scroll Bar

One of the classical dances of India, Bharatanatyam could well be the oldest classical dance form. Bharatanatyam comes to us in the 21st century with a sense of surrealistic splendour and dazzling dynamics. The dance has close linkages with old sculpture and paintings and with ancient texts, which give it a quite authority without impinging on the expansive creative spaces it needs. The dance embraces the most abstract and evolved concepts of human thought – enunciated in poetry, arranged to melody and framed in the perimeter of rhythm. Visually it moves between the stillness of stylized lines and the voluptuous volumes of sculptures from the southern areas, which fall in the modern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Its concerns depict our times, trials and tribulations. It has moved from only myth and mildness to issue and arguments reflective of an organic process. Rooted in pristine Indianness, Bharatanatyam is qualified by the spirit of the sacred and celebrates the values that are intrinsic and eternal to the Indian civilization. Like the history of the civilization or the rivers that nurtured them, the dance form flows through the ages.

Vilasini Natyam

Vilasini Natyam is the name given to the dance tradition of the temple dancers of Andhra Pradesh. These dancers were known as Kalavantulu. Unlike similar traditions that have evolved in other regions of the country, the ritual-specific (Gudi Seva), ceremonial-specific (Kacheri Ata) and dance operatic (Ata Bhagavatam) aspects of the temple dances form an integral part of the Vilasini Natyam repertoire. Apart from being a distinctive style, Vilasini Natyam is unique in that it retains the functional classification of the art practiced by these Kalavantulu, suitably adapted for modern-day stage presentation.

An exquisite form of expression shaped over centuries enriched by the artistic imagination of countless temple dancers this dance tradition has been painstakingly researched and recast by Swapnasundari, who worked under the guidance of Maddula Lakshmi Narayana, who was an exponent of this tradition.

Some of the Major Perfomances


• Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival at Tirupati, June 1997
• Natyanjali Festival, Chidambaram, February 1999, 2006
• Jeevan Pani Festival, India International Centre, September 1999
• Spirit of Youth Festival, Chennai, October 1999
• Inaugural performance Music Academy, Chennai, December 2000
• Guru Vandana – Performance in memory of Guru Sikkil Ramaswamy Pillai, Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, May 2001
• India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, April 2002
• Diva International Chinmaya Misssion, New Delhi, November 2002
• India International Centre, December New Delhi 2003
• Swarna Nritya Pratibha, Sangeet Natak Akademi, February 2004.
• Tarangam Festival, August 2005, 2006
• World Buddhist Conference, Bir, Himachal Pradesh, November 2005.
• Sanskriti Foundation, March 2005
• Workshops in American International School, New Delhi-2003-2005
• Soorya Festival, Trivandrum, 2006
• Yuva Mahotsava, Bharat Kalachar, Chennai, 2007
• The Grand Festival, Khajuraho, 2008
• Third Raghu Sinha Memorial Concert, Organized by Shruti Mandal, Jaipur, 2008
• Doordarshn Archive recording incorporating dance as a part of Tala Vadya Kacheri (Percussion Ensemble), June, 2009
• Commonwealth celebrations, YOUTH FESTIVAL 2010, organised by Sahitya Kala Parishad
• National Programme of Dance, Delhi Doordarshan, 2010
• ‘Pancha Tatva’, { dance as a part of rhythmic ensemble }, Delhi Doordarshan, 2011
• ‘Abhinaya Sudha’, festival of dance, Hyderabad, 2012
• Regional Programme of Dance, Chennai Doordarshan, 2012
• ‘Shiv –Vivah’, ballet in Khajuraho, February, 2012 and 2013

Foreign Tours
• Malaysia - Purvadhanashree performed in different parts of Malaysia in the year 2001, under the banner of Rajalingam Productions
• United States of Ameriaca – As a part of a production conceptualized and choreographed by Saraswati Sundareshan Purva performed in U.S.A in the year 2003
• Montreal, Canada – Under the able guidance of Dr. Mamata Niyogi Nakra Purva had the opportunity to observe and study how the art of Bharatnatyam is flourishing outside the land of its origin. Purva visited Kala Bharatati in the year 2001, 2003 and 2005. The first time she went as Oniel de Memorial scholarship holder under which she made a detailed study of how dance is approached and taught by Dr. Mamata Niyogi-Nakra in a wholistic manner keeping in mind the sensibilitites of students in Montreal. In 2003 Purva went as an observer in the 14 day Summer Residencey Course organized by Kala Bharati for participants from Canada and U.S.A. The workshop addressed key issues in teaching Bharatantyam outside India. Purva again visited Montreal in 2005 to work in two major areas – i) a detailed study of the fundamentals in ‘Adavu Project’ as practiced in Pandannalur style of Dr. Mamata Niyogi Nakra ii) the role of Bharatanatyam in developing multiple intelligence in a child.

Vilasini Natyam

Major Performances -Vilasini Natyam

• Sopan Festival, Sahitya Kala Parishad, January 2004 - As a scholarship holder of Sahitya Kala Parishad Purva was the first young dancer to be presenting Vilasini Natyam in this festival.
• Vilasni’06, Festival of Vilasini Natyam , Delhi, 2006
• Vilasini’07, Festival of Vilasini Natyam, Chennai, 2007
• Mudra Festival, Trivandrum, 2007
• Delhi International Arts Festival, 2007
• Ammavaru Brahmotsava Celebrations, TTD, 2007
• Indradhanush’08 ( festival of young artistes), 2008 New Delhi
• Khajuraho Dance festival , 2008 – Purvadhanashree was the first dancer of this style to have performed Vilasini Natyam in this festival. She was also the youngest dancer in the festival this year.
• Silver Jubilee celebrations of Kalaikoodam, India International Centre May 2009
• Youth Festival, Music Academy, Chennai, 2010
• Young Dancer Festival, Utsav Academy of Dance, New Delhi, 2011
• Natyanjali Festival, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, 2012
•‘ Shivanjali ‘, dance festival organized by Suswara, Chennai, 2012 Purvadhanashree has been performing the dance rituals during the Brahmotsava at the Ranganatha Swamy temple at Ranghbagh, Hyderabad for the past 8 years.

Editorial Eye

Please use the Scroll Bar

Text in Indian Dance – My reflections

Dance has always been a fundamental human expression. When nature and human beings lived in complete harmony, the music in the songs of bird, the melody in the movement of wind, the rhythm in the flow of water, the dynamism in the gaits of different animals and the vibrancy in the ever-changing canvas of the wide expanses inspired the dancer in every human being to explore the possibilities and potential to move one’s body in myriad ways. With significant changes in style of living and evolution of a culture, specific to a place and time, there emerged occasions which provided the context for dance. It was not merely moving one’s body. Dance became a vehicle to celebrate or mark an occasion. The occasion acquired a context in which dance was performed. And with emergence of a language - spoken and later written, dance evolved to become a way of animating a poetic idea apart from a body expression of translating a melody. With religion turning into an institution, dance became a meeting point between the scripture, the ritual and the divine. In public arena the epics and folklore provided the text to the dancer to combine education and entertainment. Dance was a seva in temple, an aesthetic experience for the intelligentsia and entertainment for the public. In all three contexts what played a very vital role was the Text which carried the dancer and the audience into a journey of self – exploration.

In this essay I have put down my observations and reflections on how I understand the place of text in Indian Classical dance. It is not an academic paper. As a classical dancer of present generation I am trying to understand how artistes choose a text in conceptualising a dance piece. This essay briefly discusses three aspects of text in dance – text and context, how is a text interpreted, how much freedom does an artiste have in interpreting a text.

Text and Context
The social beliefs, cultural fabric, religious practices, geographical landscapes, tapestry of human relations and kind of patronage given to a classical dance form significantly contributed in the formulation of a text. Not every text which was composed was meant to be danced but it was chosen because of the lyrics which were appropriate for a context. In temple the dancer performed different texts from scriptures, works of saint-poets or other writers. The emphasis was more on the ritual and not on the art as such. There the human body became a via media for the recited word to acquire a new dimension. Body movements and facial expression transformed the recitation into an enigmatic dance-theatrical exposition which subsumed the performer and the onlooker.

Classical dance was performed in courts or in chamber for the learned and the elite. Because the audience were informed it gave an opportunity to the dancer to delve deep into the intricacies of the text. The poetry was elevated to the level of a heightened aesthetic experience. The dancer was in complete command of the language and the music which was evident in the ways she explored the possibilities of the text and the melody. There have been instances when the creativity of the dancer inspired a poet to compose lyrics (impromptu or otherwise) .

Classical dance also communicated to people at large when stories from the epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana or classics like – Nala Damayanti, Vikramorvashiyam were danced keeping in mind the pulse of the audience. As the audience was familiar with the text the experience of watching it come alive through a dance presentation was a very unique one.
e mythological stories cut across the language barrier and connect to people of

Classical Text in modern era.
Since the time when classical dance was performed in temple, court and public arena to this day when it has been de-contextualised and is only seen as a concert-art, the kinds of text used vary a lot. Performers use both classical, and modern texts but there are continuous speculations about the relevance of classical text in today’s age.
A classical text is a repository of the culture of the time when it was composed. The imagery, the language, the characters, the way emotions are expressed speak volumes about that era. As the poetry was addressed to divine-characters the text acquired a universal feel which did not restrict it to a specific period. This is the reason why classical texts still have an important place in Indian classical dance. They do have a degree of contemporaneity. The language of compositions might be archaic, the imagery used might be somewhat odd with respect to the present day sensibilities, but as the text is interpreted through dance it gets communicated.
At the same time it is important to address the fact that in past few decades because of rapid change in the society due to globalisation, a large section of people are being slowly removed from their cultural roots. The education system and media is not taking an active role in making people culturally aware. Hence it becomes difficult for a dancer to present a piece to an urban audience. Many times the audience is not familiar with the language of songs. The imagery used, for example, nakha shikha varnana (head to toe description of the heroine) looks very strange to a modern eye. As the context has faded out from the presentation of the art which is now only seen on a proscenium, or in a studio, questions are raised about the relevance of certain pieces. Some sections of the audience hardly have a feel for language or literature. Although the text is briefly paraphrased in English but it is not the same like earlier when the audience was much – informed. This puts the dancer in a dilemma about how far should s(he) should explain the song during the announcement? Ideally dance should speak for itself but from the time classical dances have travelled far and wide outside their areas of origin and practice; from the time the context in which a particular piece was performed has been removed, the need to explain the text of the song is inevitable.

In second half of 20th century there emerged a section of artistes who questioned the use of classical literature in dance. They expressed discordance with the subject matter in those texts and the style of presentation, keeping in mind the contemporaneity of the social set-up. The trend has continued till date when many artistes are working with themes like ‘Time’, ‘Space’, ‘Reflection’, ‘Body’, ‘ A journey of a drop of water’, ‘Five Elements’, ‘Rain’, ‘Echo’ etc. It is paradoxical that some of them have used specific texts from ancient, medieval and modern literatures. And there are others who have worked with appropriate musical compositions to project the theme.

How is a text interpreted?
Interpreting a text through dance involves coming together of many sensibilities. The greatest challenge for an artiste is to understand the meaning of a word and translate it through her body in a particular melody and tempo. Since most of the time the dancer is dressed in a neutral costume and make –up her enactment of different characters, landscapes, time zones is convincing and communicative only when she interprets the text properly and not just perform it as an action song.

In her interpretation she not only uses hand gestures and different gaits but also subtle movements of eyes, neck, eyebrows, lips etc . Sometimes a glance or a sway of hand says a lot. From dancing word to word meaning the dancer slowly meanders between different sub-texts. When danced, a text acquires a life of its own. What enamours me the most is this translation of a word into a movement. The meeting point of the word, the music, the rhythm, the interpretation of the dancer and the involvement of the audience creates a heightened aesthetic experience called the sadharanikaran – the universalisation of the particular.

Apart from using a lyrical text dancers also use musical compositions set in a particular rhythmic cycle. Through such pieces a dancer gets an opportunity to explore the technique of a style. Depending on the rhythmic sense and proficiency in choreography the dancer moves on from dancing the pattern of the song to performing different mathematical calculations within the tala cycle of the melody. The movements thus performed paint dynamic strokes in the air which seem like a moving kaleidoscope. The geometry of lines, the melody of bells, the spectacle of leaps and jumps, the flexibility of body limbs and the fluidity of glances, dialogue with the rhythmical text performed by the musicians.

It is important to point out here the use of mnemonic syllables and beats of percussion as forming a textual base in dance forms like Chhau where in there is very less usage of a poetic phrase. This feature is seen in other dance foms also. But at the same time it is not similar to compositions like pallavi, jatiswara, Tillana etc. Since the dancer is dressed in a specific costume according to the character and sometimes also wears a mask to portray the same, it helps to contextualise the presentation. Since the movements are carefully chosen keeping in mind the character and the situation, the text, in this case is the dance itself. In absence of a song, the presentation rests heavily on the body language of the dancer which expands a core idea throughout the performance.

In all styles of classical dance the important factors which enhance the meaning of the text and its translation into movement is the selection of the raga and the tempo in which the song has to be sung. Apart from the beginning and end of a piece when the music alone seems like an extension to the text, the interludes enhance the silences between the words. They give a relief in the flow of a presentation and also highlight the musicality of the dance and the ‘danceablity’ of the music.

Text and artistic freedom
Which text is suitable for dance interpretation? How far can the dancer go to interpret the words in a particular manner? Should the interpretation be suggestive or literal? Should a text be chosen according to audience’s sensibilities or does the dancer have complete freedom? What role does age and gender appropriateness play in an interpretation? Does the personality or satva of a dancer interfere with the interpretation of the text? These are some of the questions which run through my mind when I introspect about the relationship between the text and the dance. I also wonder about the responsibility an artiste has towards sensitizing people, which comes into play when s(he) chooses a text and interprets it.

Language has a very important role in a person’s life. It gives an identity to a person. It connects people. It gives a ‘form’ to the abstract world of human ideas. When this language is interpreted through a classical dance then each word acquires a life of its own. A word is no longer ‘caged’ within any cultural boundary but ‘flies’ like a free bird in the sky of human imagination. The text unfolds through the body of a dancer into an experience which everyone can relate to.

In today’s age when a person’s creative abilities are bartered for a secure job and financial security, when education system is geared towards producing ‘kiddults’ , when emotions are commodified and presented in the most insensitive manner, when the indigenous cultures are being eroded by global motifs and definitions, our society needs art forms which expose people to their heritage; art forms which channelize people’s creativity in a beautiful manner; art forms which not only inform, educate and entertain people but also heal them.
Indian Classical dance is one such art. The relation between text, context, performer and viewer, which gets complete expression in classical dance, is the one which enriches sensibilities. It gives a glimpse into the ethereal world of imagination and exposes one to the rich cultural heritage of this country.

Mind’s Eye

Please use the Scroll Bar

Man and Mirror
Imagine if there is no reflection on the mirror when you stand in front of it. Eerie.. isn’t it? When we do see our reflection in the mirror we do not bother to wonder that we are much more than what we see ourselves to be.
Following paragraphs point out how the image of a mirror has been used as an allegory

Etymology -
· Drip (root word) +lyut pratyaya {suffix} combine to form the word ‘darpan’ -Sanskrit word for mirror, which means ‘the reflection of light’.
· ‘ darpan’ which is also derived from dri dhatu (root word) means ‘that which destroys ego’. Hanuman is addressed as dasha greevasya darpanaha one who played destroyed the ego of Ravana.
· It is interesting to note that a person’s eyes continuously watch others but the only way they can ‘look’ at her is with the help of a mirror. It is no co-incidence that another meaning for darpan is eyes – which look inward.
· The fourth meaning of darpan is self image

Mati darpanam kavinam, vishwam prati phalati
A poet’s mind is like the mirror for the entire world. His writings reflect what the society is. They also act as a guide for everyone to take notice of everything.

Chehra man ka darpan
Somebody said that we all wear masks in front of others. There are very few who actually get to see the real person behind this mask. But for those who can see the real person, face acts like a mirror which reflects the mind’s thoughts – especially the eyes which disclose a person’s feelings in the most lucid manner.

Tora man darpan kehlaye , bhle bure saare karmon ko dekhe aur dikhae
If face is the mirror to the mind, mind is the mirror to the soul. It makes a person aware of his deeds- guides him whenever he goes haywire, appreciates him when he performs a good action. Although the mind is our constant companion but we seldom listen to it. Layers of dust in the form of negligence and ego settle on this mirror …. Layers, which many of us are not able to remove.

In the sanctum sanctorum of many Shiva temples one can see a lamp in middle of mirrors all around. These mirrors reflect the image of the lamp symbolizing the fact that all manifest beings are the reflections of one universal unmanifest being.

I wonder at the absurd human mind. There is no one who does not want to look into a mirror and admire oneself but there are some people who enjoy looking at distorted mirrors in circus and laugh at the warped images. Well, to laugh at oneself is sometimes therapeutic and a pleasant relief from everything around.

There is a character in Dilli 6 who keeps showing the mirror to everyone. People call him mad but finally the protagonist points out that the mirror which the mad man keeps showing is a reminder of the fact that there is a common divine element at the core of everyone’s heart. External appearances might be different but deep down we are all the same.

There is a Buddhist practice in which a person is expected to look into the mirror and tell oneself that she loves herself. If done with humility and love this practice can enable one to forgive oneself and life every day on a new note no matter how the past has been but if performed with ego it can lead to hedonism.

Cinderella’s step mother keeps questioning the ‘mirror on the wall’ about who is the most beautiful woman. Her obsession with being the most beautiful woman in the world shatters, when Cinderella is born. The mirror in no more able to make the queen swell in her own beauty.

In ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ Harry confronts the magical mirror of Erised which shows the deepest and the most desperate desires of a person but his teacher informs him that ‘the mirror neither gives knowledge or truth’ and ‘the happiest man on earth would be able to use it as the normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is’.

Michael Jackson’s music video ‘Man and the Mirror’ juxtaposes images of people who have influenced the history of mankind. He calls for a change which each one of us can bring provided we look into ourselves.

At different levels of existence all of us are mirrors for each other. Sooner or later we realise that fundamentally all are same… reflections of one Superior Being.

I - Recommend

Haji Ali picked up his dog eared, grease-spotted Koran and held it before the flames. “ do you see how beautiful this Koran is ?” he asked. “ I can’t read it. I can’t read anything. This is the greatest sadness in my life. I’ll do anything so that the children of my village never have to know this feeling. I’ll pay any price so they have the education they deserve” from ‘Three cups of Tea’ --Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Inspired by infinity

Other artistic pursuits . Purva hails from a family of artistes. While her mother Kamalini Dutt’s inputs see complete expression in Purva as a dancer, her father Kuber Dutt’s influences in Purva’s growth find a reflection in Purva as a writer on issues related to arts, culture, religion and society and in Purva as an anchor and a voice-over artiste.