A question that has puzzled several students for years and will probably puzzle coming generations too!
Debate is if its required ? or if its not required ?
We say – IT IS NOT REQUIRED.
Coming from a background of Indian Performing Arts and first dance steps learned in Indian Folk Dances and then Bharatnatyam, language is just a part of song that expresses the mood and the story of incidents happening in the act/song.
With several Indian Folk Dances being taught one after the other with their styles, it is IMPOSSIBLE to sit and learn all the languages since one of the main criteria to differentiate most or all Indian Folk Dances would be the language itself to begin with and then techniques; later the choreography.
But does that mean that dancing anything you like or directly expressing the words of song on one particular language is called Indian Folk Dance-NOPE :).
We wished, it was that easy.
Translations of each Indian Folk Dance are very much given in all pioneer institutes that teach these authentic Indian Folk Dances (not to confuse with Bollywood/Indian Movie Music or dance moves). At Grace And Grooves, students get to understand the translations in their native language (most preferably english in USA) just like the way our teachers and guru(s) gave these in our regional languages. With practice and proper understanding of each mood and lyrics, each dance is thus easier to incorporate in dances & students. It brings out the moods, expressions & lyrics of the song as & when required. Our audiences are able to understand what song means with the dance being a medium 🙂 This includes Bharatnatyam. That Is How We Got Our Name 🙂
Not to confuse with happy-smiling face all the time (That is not following Navarasa given the fact that Indian Folk Dance May Not Follow Natya Shashtra!) Read below why…Navarasa does not tell you to smile all the time!
For those who understand language during the performances, it will NOT look beautiful because your face, gestures and mood is telling a wrong story than what song says. It will look awkward and weird. Not Beautiful. Nobody cares for those who don’t understand language and would wonder what it is!
Is this is evolution of dance ? Nope. Neither it is accepting modernization. It is not creativity & it does not showcase any culture either! It is not fusion either. But is that a solution for those who don’t understand language? NOPE.
Remove the word-Indian from it, Remove the word-Folk from it in that case :). You can remove the word-dance from it if you know language(LOL). Because yeah, by all means you can move your body the way you want on any music you want. No rules without any restriction is just creative movements. And we wonder what is so creative, if you are showing exactly what song describes and it does not relate to the song..We could add salt to our tea/coffees…let’s assume, nobody would care to notice!
Bharatnatyam is no different when it comes to breaking chains of language. Techniques have no connections with languages and we wished it was true for all Indian Folk Dances.
Although most krithis and keertanas were composed in Tamil for Bharatnatyam with its birth & re-birth in Tamilnadu, the art-form has travelled through out India & outside, gaining popularity in North India. Though if you see the jatis & adavu sets do not have any language except pure Carnatic/Classical notes (no song associated with it). Several other compositions from other renowned regional poets were added to the list of dances esp. for Abhinaya as it travelled across the states. Some of which includes inspirations from Indian Folk Dance poets too where the entire song/lyrics were RECOMPOSED to Classical/Carnatic form with ragam and talam to welcome the art-form. But dance remained same! To make it competitive, some institutes added more margams, permutations and combinations of jatis & adavu sets to its choreography. Terminology w/pronunciations, teaching methods changes depending on teacher.
Why this evolution ?
Because teaching Tamil was not possible for everybody as they travelled to different states and taught the dance form. Sitting and learning Tamil was NOT possible for each student when dance was just an activity to incorporate traditional classical culture in life. So translations were given word by word with meaning and the story or act of each composition.
Then…………..Why so much emphasis on learning language then ??
Learning a new language has not hurt anybody so a-lot of students have learned the language to make it easier to incorporate other compositions that were not taught by their teachers directly gave more possibilities to achieve in the art-form. It is beautiful practice to train your mind to learn new language anyways and there is nothing wrong if you learn it or if you don’t. For some students who have taken their degrees in Sanskrit and any of such rich mother languages, all languages pretty much connects to them. Roots of most languages have been same with no evolution theories to it.
Indian Folk Dances though travelled did not leave their regional language in most cases. Though the variations and styles were created within a specific Indian Folk Dance Form to make it welcoming for new generations. Fundamental techniques are constant irrespective of language in both; Bharatnatyam And Indian Folk Dances. Indian Folk Dances Forms have shorter compositions and non-carnatic music in most or all cases than average Bharatnatyam or any classical dance and so it is easier to learn it without recomposing the work in regional language. Besides, it is easy to learn translations of whole song than to go bonkers over learning a language for just one time 3-4 minute of dance work. And for Indian Folk Dances, language changes drastically for each folk dance form with NO absolute resemblance of technique or anything.
Bollywood as we talk about is NO different when it comes to breaking the language standards. Bollywood got its name from Bombay Studios-thats in Mumbai. Mumbai is in Maharashtra-India. Mumbai has regional language of Marathi. Bollywood is NOT IN MARATHI :).
As the theater dramas advanced to movies & gained popularity, the Bombay Studios adopted National Language of India-Hindi to give honors to India and various talents from all over India were invited to be part of showing their talents and skills on the big screen. Sort of like a pre-recorded theater drama where in all the set-backs and mistakes of live performances were deleted!
It did not end there, Marathi theaters continued and several other regions of India (which are now states) had their own theaters that advanced to movies in their regional languages. So now we have different names for Tollywood-Telugu Indian Cinema as it is known, Kollywood and several smaller names that are barely used. But Bollywood and Tollywood gained its big name because of variety and entertainment level that it had to offer on such a broad spectrum, all over the world. From some of the most famous Classical Dancers, Indian folk dancers, Music, Cultures to pretty much any talent you can think of is all showcased. Therefore, even in Bollywood that has principle language as Hindi, it is not only Hindi but has flares of various accents of other languages depending on story!
From Aika Dajiba (marathi song but inspired from folk song), Neele Neele Ambar (in Hindi), Nagada Sang Dhol Baaje(Gujarati remix from folk song), famous songs of Rabindranath Tagore (mostly in bengoli), telugu remixes and tamil remixes, bhagra & Rajasthani examples(unlimited songs!) to any religion dances that you can think of. All of these hit the charts again and again with its several variations of song recomposed with several remixes and today we have Shape of you that is actually a Non-Indian Song & thats the part of several Bollywood remixes! Tollywood has main language as telugu but it has remix of English, Hindi, Urdu and lot of other languages and cultures showcased just as well.
Main goal & audiences of Bollywood/Tollywood/Indian Cinema Dances is only entertainment with some culture to be called as Indian at least in the entire movie of 2-3 hours. In Tollywood, it is usually showing off the South Indian flare & some other languages as dialogues or accents to be specific but that does not mean Bollywood is specifically for North Indians (LOL). And it does not mean in Tollywood, they don’t wear western clothes 🙂
That is why indian movie dances do not have dance form or specific style of its own.
There, we eliminated your need of sitting and learning ALL the languages for learning Indian Folk Dances, Bharatnatyam Or Bollywood/Tollywood/Indian Movie Dances.
One more less work to take care of. Isn’t life that simple ?
This is why Grace And Grooves is different. It is called serving to knowledge 🙂
Exclusive Copyrights By Hetal Nagaraj for Reach Mediaa | Grace & Grooves | Grace Creations | Grace And Grooves | Nruthyakala Dance Academy | Mirchi Dance Academy | Kalasri Classical Dance Academy : 2012-2018.
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Post Updated : April 15, 2018.