There are some artists who follow the art that they have learnt from there gurus exactly the way they were taught and then there are some who think beyond and try to achieve new horizons yet keeping the essence of their art alive. I am talking about one such incredible artist who is not just a fantastic dancer but a true performer, choreographer, writer, and a fabulous teacher – Mandakini Trivedi.
Mandakini Trivedi was honoured with the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar (Award) in 2015 for Mohini Attam; she is a unique dance personality whose quest for truth through Art has taken her to frontiers beyond the Form.
She holds Masters in Fine Art (MFA) in Dance from Mumbai University’s Nalanda Nrityakala Mahavidyalaya and is trained in Mohini Attam under the expert guidance of Padma Bhushan and Padmashree Dr. Kanak Rele and has also taken master classes in Mohini Attam from Smt. Kalyanikuttiamma, Smt. Kalamandalam Satyabhama, and Smt. Kalamandalam Leelamma. All through her dance training, Mandakini was drawn to the undercurrents of spirituality in Indian aesthetics, she was convinced that it was not a mere coincidence, a poetic or mythological exaggeration that Bharata the compiler of the Natya Shastra was a muni, that Shiva and all the Gods of the pantheon danced, that the aesthetic experience was compared to the spiritual experience. Neither did she feel that this spiritual background was a matter of history irrelevant to the times. She pondered deeply on these issues wondering why the professional dance scene was so far away from its original background.
As if in answer to this deep query, she met her spiritual Master, Swami Shri Harish Madhukar – ‘Babaji’, a jolly fakir who was not a dancer but in him, she saw the joy that the aestheticians referred to as the ultimate purpose of art. For many years, she practiced spiritual sadhanas with him, away from the world of professional dancing and understood the deep roots of mysticism and spirituality in art. She understood what ‘sadhana’ or spiritual discipline really meant! Her performances, choreographies and lecture demonstrations, all became coloured by the fragrance of the Master’s teachings. Truly, she realised, there is no difference between art and spirituality. Dance is the highest yoga and art only a means to expand Consciousness. Henceforth, this understanding permeated all her work.
Totally mesmerised by her interpretation and presentation, I sat down to talk to this graceful and soft-spoken dancer who has given a totally new twist to Mohini Attam.
What is the dance gurukul all about?
Having understood the essence of Yoga from Babaji, I studied the details of the yoga Shastra under Shri Sharad Pathak of the Tibetan Global Research Institute to further co-relate Dance and Yoga. I found that not only is Indian dance essentially spiritual, but the very form is nothing but yoga – perfected body geometry leading one to a perfected State of Being. I discovered that Indian dance is sensual, scientific and a journey to the Source. I wondered, why is the Dance not taught like this, lived like this? Why has performing become a sensual entertainment, a mere profession, and a hypocritical expression of divine themes that are not lived or genuinely felt? These questions gave birth to Nateshvari Dance Gurukul, a space that addresses all these issues and grooms young dancers to look at themselves while they look at the art.
Tell me about your ashram experience?
As the chairperson of Shaktiyogashrama, founded by Swami Shri Harish Madhukar, I conduct residential programmes at the ashram, initiating young minds into holistic lifestyles and spiritual principles that have shaped Indian art and life and given it a unique character.
Your dance awareness program is well known. Please put more light on it!
My thought-provoking lecture-demonstrations on Indian Dance that are mainly aimed at reviving the roots of Indian Dance in Yoga, have inspired young dance students to re-look at the art and its practice; they have been eye-openers for students of allied disciplines such as architecture and design and made them aware of the breadth and potential of Indian Dance. They have also created a love for the idiom in lay-persons. I have taken these workshops to schools, colleges, Dance Schools, government as well as corporate organisations and professional colleges of allied disciplines like Architecture and Design and the industrial design centre, IIT Bombay, and many more.
What about your writing work?
I write articles on Classical Indian dance in many leading newspapers and magazines. I love to write, I feel just like dance, I can express through writing as well. Writing helps me to look at dance in a more in-depth way just the way dance does. To me, dance and writing are similar in many ways.
Some of my writing work is Master’s thesis – The Evolution of Hastas from Mudras. Ananda Yoga – Conversations on Happiness, being dialogues with Swami Shri Harish Madhukar. The Yoga of India Dance -Concealed beneath the rich and intricate fabric of classical Indian dance lays a system of mind-body discipline that is at once aesthetic, symbolic and yogic. Its themes steeped in mythology still contain wisdom relevant to our times. Sutras on Dance – In the form of personal ruminations, these sutras are meditations and reflections on performing and performing techniques that stem from the philosophy and practice of yoga. Meant to stimulate deep cogitation, they talk of the principles of watchable form and performing techniques that are hidden in Nature and Yoga. They also question the need to perform, its validity and dangers.
How are your performances and choreographies unique from others?
Performing and choreographing is an important area of my work for I feels that performing is nothing but the practice and perfecting of the art and should be continued to the end of one’s life, irrespective of age and market forces.
By Sandip Soparrkar
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