There’s a magical place just outside Bangalore dedicated to Indian classical dance.
“I wanted to set up a place where anyone with a passion for dance could come and stay and train, not having to worry about finances or anything else, and devote themselves one hundred per cent to dance. The students would live on the campus learning all the major classical dance styles from the best gurus.”
This was Protima Bedi’s dream, which she realized by setting up Nrityagram – the dance village – in 1991. Her vision was to run the school as a gurukul, a place where students and teachers would live together in a community setting. Instead of paying fees, students would take care of the school’s daily household chores. Today the founder is no more, and there are only a handful of students studying only one classical dance style – Odissi. But Protima’s spirit lives on.
I’d been meaning to visit Nrityagram for a long time but whenever I planned a visit, the school was always invariably closed because the dancers were away on tour. The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble is known for it’s excellence and the group performs all over the world. Fortunately I had the chance to see them perform at the Chennai December Season.
I finally caught up with them on their return from their recent US tour. The dancers were busy rehearsing for an upcoming tour of Malaysia and a performance in Bangalore. Watching them rehearse in the specially-built dance hall filled with morning sunshine and a cool breeze coming in through the windows, I was struck by the dancers’ inner silence and concentration. One of the dancers would suddenly stop, think about her last movement, adjust it, and then ask the others what they thought of the adjustment. The perfection of their dance comes from their meticulous attention to detail.
The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble’s excellence is also a result of the dancers’ passion and absolute commitment to dance. You have to be passionate and committed to live in a small community in a rural setting where all you do is eat, sleep and dance.
This is a place where dancers live to dance!