Vani feels the people don’t truly understand and appreciate the energy and grace plays in this style.
When it comes to the dance form like Mohiniyattam, the expressions that the dancer showcases are simple yet dexterous. And it is these expressions that not only enthral an audience but the audience also gets sucked into the world of the dancer.
There were a few lucky Delhiites who got the opportunity to witness these emotions through a dance recital of Mohiniyattam by Vani Bhalla Pahwa at the India International Centre. Choreographed by Padmashree Bharati Shivaji, the evening consisted of four compositions of Mohiniyattam. While the evening commenced with the invocation of Ganesha and Saraswati, followed by the second act which was a was a mukhachalan; a pure dance item that had an indigenous and rich tradition of talas and ragas of Kerala with very characteristics of the body moment of Mohiniyattam.
The third segment of the evening was very emotive ‘abhinaya’ act, it was a story of a young adolescent girl who wakes up from her dream and when she wakes up she left wondering of who the handsome young man was who came into her dream and stole her heart away.
The concluding segment was called The Jiva, where the crux of the item is the journey of the jivatma towards the Paramatma, establishing rich and diverse indigenous ragas and talas of Kerala, which start slow but slowly they build at the crescendo.
Vani is the senior-most disciple of Guru (Padmashree) Smt. Bharati Shivaji, and was amongst the first students who began training under her since the inception of her dancing years. She shares, “It’s been a very long journey as I started when I was very young, in fact, I was not even 5 years old at that time.” She believes that her journey as a dancer was “ever-growing, evolving, enriching and a very satisfying.” She adds “The deeper and deeper you get into it, the more you will feel alive, and with that, you can extract experience and understanding from it at so many levels and all happens naturally as you also mature as a person, you also stimulate life experiences as a person, you are able to draw differences,” she adds.
Vani feels the people don’t truly understand and appreciate the energy and grace plays in this style. “Here the dancer is constantly leashing and unleashing the energy in a very controlled and graceful way, which actually makes this form more powerful and difficult. The movements look continuously flowing but the dancer plays with the speed and intricate tala patterns yet what the viewer sees is continuous and beautiful sway of the torso”
Vani is also working on redirecting attention to and reviving interest in India’s indigenous art forms and traditions as means of holistic health and fitness and to highlight the vast repertory of unparalleled wealth they offer, as a unique mix of art and science.
Talking about her experience with her Guru Bharati Shivaji, she shares, “ It has been a wonderful experience, as a Guru she is as giving as she is exacting, she takes a lot of pain to ensure that you understand the philosophy behind every movement.”
So in the end, we ask her, who is a dancer, she simply replies, “A dancer is a beautiful athlete in motion. She may not have a sphere in a hand, but she is doing a lot.”