Indian classical dance. Kuchipudi style.

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Concert lecture in The Museum Of Oriental Arts "The healing power of dance"

In today's lecture we would like to touch upon quite an unusual subject - the healing powers of dance.

The healing power of danceLet's start with the question what the dance is.

First of all it is the oldest form of intercourse between men and the surrounding world. Any activity we are involved in life is per se a dance, be it cooking (a ritual dance at a kitchen range), or cleaning an apartment (a dance with a vacuum-cleaner), or a metro ride (only the smartest ones can step into escalator before others), or contacts with colleagues, where the art of Abhinaya fullyreveals itself: you make a happy face to ones, and show your disdain for the others.

Our success and prosperity in life depend on how well we possess our bodies, facial expressions and gestures, how well we are able to control our mental condition and emotions.

Thus, a dance is a purposeful impact of internal energy on the environment; the impact can both be wholesome and destructive. But that what destroys is not always bad. More than once you are certain to have seen a statuette of a dancing Shiva Nataraja. There is a great meaning it its symbolism:

In one hand Shiva holds a drum, the image of the initial sound, rhythm, vibration out of which The Cosmos sprung out.

In the other hand he holds fire that destroys all that becomes obsolete.

The gestures of the two remaining hands show that he protects everyone who turns to him for help.

With his feet Shiva tramples on a demon that embodies stagnation and inactivity.

The dancing Shiva is a symbol of cosmic movement and renovation. In India they believe that when Nataraja (or The Lord of Dance) stops that will mean the end of the world.

In order to do homage to this truly great Deity, the first dance we are about to show you will be Puja dedicated to Shiva-Nataraja.

Let's get back to our subject. We have clarified what a dance is. Now let's investigate where its healing effect lies.


It includes 3 constituent parts:

The motion as a means of stress relieving

Special motions for harmonizing energy

Motions as a means for accumulating energy


Let's talk briefly about each of them.

What is stress? This is nothing but a myotonia that found no adequate exit.

Where does it come from? In every extreme case the human organism reacts with a mighty adrenaline rush into blood. This results in increased heartbeat rate and our body is ready either to come into battle or run away. If we do not give the organism an opportunity to react properly, muscles accumulate strain which later on will cause various spasms which in its turn results in illnesses. On the other hand if you strain muscles for at least 30 seconds, then relaxation automatically comes and there will be no stress.

This quality of the organism is effectively used in the so-called dance therapy and relates to all dance forms.

The other two constituents are inherent with the Indian temple dance alone, the dance that has very ancient roots. In particular Kuchipudi dance style represented by our studio counts more than 3000 years.

However, before we pass on to the more detailed examination of peculiarities of Indian classic dance you will see the next dance on our program; this is Koluvaitiwa Rangasai, the hymn dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

You might have already noticed that a narration in Indian dance is conducted with the help of certain gestures or hastas.

Namely hastas and also the main dance position ardhamandali (or semi-sitting position with knees strongly moved apart) hold the sacral meaning that allows to harmonize body and mind by means of dance.

For instance, by mere sitting yourself in ardhamandali position you'll be able to balance out male and female principles which can symbolically be pictured as two triangles, one with its top up corresponding to male principle, the other with its top down corresponding to female principle, all this giving you psychological and bioenergetical harmony.

By making certain figures with your hands (hastas) you will lock the corresponding energy canals that is leading to stimulation of certain points responsible for increasing the protective forces of the organism. Besides, the degree of fingers' mobility is directly connected with mental flexibility and quickness of wit.

In order not to sound unfounded the next dance on our program will show how a dancer can convey the plot of the ancient epos Ramayana with the help of hastas.

So we have examined 2 constituents of dance:

Motion as a means of stress relieving

Special motions for harmonizing energy

Now let's turn to the 3rd constituent.

Motion as a means of accumulating energy.

The matter is that the Indian classic dance is dynamic yoga per se. Both in yoga and dance the body is taught only with the purpose to completely forget about it and make it a perfect conductor for cosmic energy of the Universe. This is what all yogis and priests are aiming at. But in this case dance even exceeds yoga since a dancer by means of self transformation transforms audience and leads it to the unity with the higher forces of the Universe.

In other words a dancer acts as a shaman, extrasensory individual, a healer of soul and mind illnesses. He/she inspires audience by his/her mighty emanation originating in his/her energy. This explains the fact that spectators who watch a temple dance not only experience special feeling of pacification but also get rid of aches especially of psychosomatic origin.

But of course, only high-rank professionals are capable of doing it.

The next dance on our program is Jatisvaram. This is a technical composition that will demonstrate that apart from knowing hastas a dancer must develop a perfect sense of rhythm and possess a plentiful energy supply.

You are about to see all this: quicksilver jumps, rapid turns, trembling and sense full play of eyes.

In the very beginning of our concert lecture we mentioned Abhinaya (or the art of pantomime). Apart from the complex technique a dancer must perfectly master this art and the skill to transform oneself into various characters. A dancer can perfect oneself in the art of Abhinaya almost all his life through, that's why the Indian classic dance does not have age limits as it can be found with other dance forms.

If Abhinaya is performed with felling a dancer can arouse in audience the understanding and empathy to the ideas and feelings placed into dance. A dancer's portraying of a certain emotion can be compared with the actual emotional experience and is believed to move a dancer nearer to the highest goal in life, to moksha or liberation from the chain of reincarnations.

The next dance on our program is a plot dance Krishnashabdam. A classic plot "a heroine and her lover" is used here but in fact this is a symbolical rendering of an individual soul's idea of love for the Supreme Soul or God.

The last dance on our program involves all that has been spoken about today and thus needs no comments.

This is a dance hymn dedicated to the Great Cosmic Dancer Shiva-Nataraja who dances his divine Tandava and destroys the Universe in the end of the cycle in order to give Brahma, the God-Creator the opportunity to create a new universe in the next cycle of creation, and this lasts for ever and ever.


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