While Indian classical dance has an ancient history, there was a time when they were all fading and remained to limited audiences, some dancers broke all the barriers and reached to the grassroots. However, as all art forms undergo a revival and return with a glorious bang, so did Indian classical dance. And, she is one of the stalwarts who are at the helm of not only taking these dance forms to their peak glory, but also making it accessible to all.
Dr Sandhya Purecha, an Indian classical dancer brought up in Mumbai, she first caught my eye at a dance festival in 2011, I was immediately struck by her musicality, the power and precision of her footwork, and the absolute clarity of her movements. As her dancer she has excelled but as a human she is just a next door buddy. Ever smiling humble yet rhythmic Sandhyaji needs great mention for good work.
As a young girl she had great passion towards dance, sensing the same, her father Sri Virsinha Purecha, who always cheered and supported her, took her to the folk dance maestro, Sir Ramesh Purav, where she had her first formal training in dance. Appreciating her craving to learn more, Sri Ramesh Purav handed her over, in 1978, to his Guru, Acharya Parvati Kumar, to learn classical dancing. Sandhya, to this day, remains truly indebted to her Gurujis for their training and guidance. Definitely it’s also related to her master’s style and persona. Her Guruji Acharya Parvati Kumar was an extremely creative person and very innovative as well. On the one hand, he comes from one of the very traditional classical dance background. He learned Bharatanatyam under Guru Chandrashekhar Pillai. He also learned several compositions from Guru Mahalingam Pillai and Smt Mylapore Gowri Ammal. He learned Kathakali from Guru Karunakar Panikar and Kathak from Guru Ratikant Arya and Guru Sunder Prasad. His legacy of dance has many mentions and one such student who made it proud is Sandhya Purecha.
Her style of dance is extremely personal and specific. What I love about her performances is something very strong in the legs — it’s very elaborate and quick in the footwork and also very anchored into the earth — but the upper body is full of grace and convincing and surging. I love the contrast between something very strong and rooted and powerful and at the same time extremely graceful and fluid and lyrical. She is one incredible master in herself. Dance in India has its inheritance; every dancer has his/her own benchmark. Actually it’s one discipline in the beginning.
She strived to bring a broader rise of the art through seminars, workshops, lecture demonstration and write-ups on dance. She has written a number of papers on various dance topics over the years, since 1994 she has been representing at the Government Teachers’ Training Programme at Natyashala on “Rasa” theory and also at various Teachers’ Training Programmes on aspects of Abhinaya. She has founded the dance institute “Kala Parichaya” and has been its Director for the past 15 years. Today, the institute caters to its students at seven branches in Mumbai and one at Amaravati with 18 of her students having performed their Arangetram.
Sandhya has endeavoured to maintain a distinct quality of technique and style in Bharatanatyam. Her basic search in the field of choreography has always been to explore and express Indian dance in the contemporary context, to enrich it with notable compositions and a thought-provoking approach. Her innovative efforts in bringing together all seven Indian classical dance styles in the new ballet “Ashtanayika”, based on the Natyashashtra, has won her admiration from all quarters. She has performed for various prestigious festivals and organisations in India and abroad.
She became active part in her Guruji’s research work on “Abhinaya Darpanam” and has performed his choreographed version of the text onstage at ICCR Delhi, Krishna Gaana Sabha at Madras, and at venues in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Pune.
She holds Master’s Degree in Sanskrit at Bombay University and subsequently a law degree too. As an educationist, she established Bharata College of Fine Arts & Culture in 2005 offering diploma, degree, post graduation courses and PhD in Bharatanatyam and Kathak with special emphasis on Sanskrit, Yoga, Music, Journalism and other related subjects.
Apart from the Abhinaya aspect, Sandhya Purecha also demonstrated several Karanas, as described by Nandikesvara. It was indeed an epic performance, which she went through with brilliant flair. Her performances of Abhinaya Darpanam engrossed the devotion of the audience right from the moment the curtains opened. Her performances keep her audiences glued and hypnotised. Witnessing the Abhinaya Darpanam presentations with each of the shlokas having a wealth of meaning and scope for interpretations, one would be really influenced that there is no need to grope for material for innovation outside tradition. There is enough within our tradition and texts, if one had only the vision, imagination and interpretative ability.
Sandhya Purecha, her students, team of musicians and other colleagues make magic by spreading cadence in the ambience. Afternoon Voice, wishes her all the best for ongoing journey.