Dancers of Sutra Dance Theatre during Navaratri, 2018 at Sutra Amphi Theatre. — Picture courtesy of Sutra Foundation.
Dancers of Sutra Dance Theatre during Navaratri, 2018 at Sutra Amphi Theatre. — Picture courtesy of Sutra Foundation.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 — Indian classical dance is not merely about expressing oneself but is steeped with tradition and a representation of culture.

There are approximately eight forms of Indian classical dance which are the Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Mohiniyattam, Kathakali, Manipuri and Sattriya and all of them require elements to be mastered before it can be performed professionally. 

Sutra Dance Theatre principal dancer and teacher Geethika Sree says Indian classical dance is culturally rich, with different aspects related to Hindu gods and goddesses.

Dancers of Sutra Foundation in Ganjam, Istana Budaya 2015. — Picture by A. Prathap
Dancers of Sutra Foundation in Ganjam, Istana Budaya 2015. — Picture by A. Prathap

Geethika said that all Indian art forms are all equally expressive and only the techniques, styles and languages differ.

For example, the Barathanatyam uses a lot of Tamil or Telugu or Sanskrit in dance while Odissi uses the Odia language from Odisha.

She explains the three main aspects in Indian classical dance are the Nritya, Natya and Nritta.

“So Nritta is the pure dance, where there’s no expressive aspect to it, it is all just technique and beats that is shown.

“Then you have the Nritya (expressive dance), it’s all about facial expression, the peak itself is storytelling and it focuses on the Abhinaya (the facial expression) where it brings out the ‘Rasa’ (the emotions).

“Then you have the Natya which are a combination of both, pure dance and expressive dance, so in that sense, usually the expressions are taken from ancient mythologies of the Indian myths,” she told Malay Mail.

Sutra Foundation Principal Dancer and Teacher Geethika Sree. — Picture by S. Magendran
Sutra Foundation Principal Dancer and Teacher Geethika Sree. — Picture by S. Magendran

These dances will usually take the Ramayana or the Mahabharata narratives or sometimes the stories of Hindus deities like Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Lord Parvati where they will be elaborated and transformed into the classical dance.

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With Deepavali just around the corner, Geethika stresses the importance of these classical dances as they can be a great tool to bring interests towards the younger generations in learning about their own culture and heritage especially in this digital age. 

“When they come to learn Indian classical dance form or any art form, what we try to get them to do is to get them to stay connected to the physical world, to the present.

“When they are there in the present, they learn discipline, they learn the Guru-Shishya Parampara which is the teacher-student relationship, so those values are very important.

“As they learn these, they also learn these stories of Indian myths, like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata so whenever they’re learning specific items, they also learn the stories behind those items,” she said.

Sutra Foundation artistic director, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim in 2014’s ‘Love Re-invented’. — Picture by A. Prathap
Sutra Foundation artistic director, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim in 2014’s ‘Love Re-invented’. — Picture by A. Prathap

Although there are no specific choreographed dances for Deepavali but according to Geethika, there are actually a wide scope of dances that can be related to Deepavali.

“Deepavali is basically about bringing light into the world, good over evil, light over darkness right.

“So if you look at the story of Deepavali, some say it is when Lord Rama comes back after killing the demon Ravana and some narratives is about the Goddess Durga killing the demons, some of it is about Lord Krishna killing demons, so all of it is down to getting rid of the darkness.

“We definitely have a lot of dance features that surround goddesses or gods that are killing the demons and bringing light into the world,” she said stressing it was the value of ther triumph of good over evil that is important.

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The Sutra Dance Theatre is an innovative dance centre that has cultivated and nurtured the Malaysian performing arts scene since three decades ago.

Established in 1983 by Datuk Ramli Ibrahim, the dance theatre has groomed a generation of Malaysian dancers and has taken Malaysian works to reach out to national and international audiences as well as promoting the cultural diversity and vibrancy of Malaysian dance.



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