August 5, 2010
Mohiniattam or “Dance of the Enchantress” captivated an audience that viewed a recent performance of Methil Devika, renowned classical dancer, at the Amritapuri campus. Organized by the Amrita SPICMACAY team, as part of the month-long Ramayana Saparya celebrations, this was an endearing tribute to all art-lovers.
The dance performance included a unique rendering of Kovilan’s and Kanaki’s story. After the performance, Ms. Devika spoke about her love for the enchanting dance style and its evolution as a unique art form.
“From earliest times, Dasiattam, was presented in temple courtyards as an offering to the gods. The form, Sadirattam, took shape in the king’s durbar; it aimed to please the majesty. This evolved to dance forms like Mohiniattam.”
“I began practicing dance in a classical Sanskrit theatre background with a Tanjavur style. I received my initial tutelage in dance at the age of four from Kalaimani S. Natarajan, a disciple of veterans Balu Bhagathavar and K. P. Kittappa Pillai.”
Ms. Devika’s guru Natarajan belongs to the illustrious family upholding the tradition of Mellatur Bhabavatha Mela Natakam in Tanjavur. Ms. Devika also studied with Rigata Girija Chandran. Later, while studying for her MBA in Chennai, she learned Kuchipudi as well.
When asked about the encroachment (in the name of modernization) into various classical Indian art forms that are based on ancient stories of gods and temples, Ms. Devika replied that, in her opinion, modernization should not spoil tradition.
“But there is also a need to be in tune with the changing times,” she emphasized. “Whether it is through selecting themes that suit the changes or by choosing themes according to the medium, we can maintain the quality of the presentation to a certain extent.”
“In earlier times it was dance in drama. However, now, this has transformed into drama in dance. We are ready to accept a modernized thrust, as long as it retains the classical nature of the art form.”
Also involved in dance-based healing therapy, Ms. Devika has assisted with experiments performed for mentally ill patients. Patients are provided exposure to various dance-based movements and expressions. After a few days, doctors conduct a basic cause analysis of patient problems.
“My experience at the Amritapuri campus was quite thrilling,” Ms. Devika emphasized, in conclusion. “The audience was tranquil and had a positive attitude. I appreciate the questions asked during the performance. My visit has been quite memorable and will remain etched in my memory.”