Still from multimedia production Akhandalaya. (Photo Source: Jayalakshmi Eshwar)

Entertainment Magazine’s News Desk || IANS || July 29, 2019

Months ago, Bharatanatyam guru Jayalakshmi Eshwar wowed her audience with a dance production that was much more than a regular classical piece.

Fused with electronic music and animated visuals of the Tamil culture, it spoke to viewers about her openness to merge technology, her dance practice and, even, her dance lessons.

For viewers who saw Eshwar’s production ‘Antariksha Sanchar’ — literally meaning transmission in space — it was a mesmerising tale of ancient aeroplanes, complete with technological elements that attract the youth today.

It featured many of her own students, but the performance stage is not the only place where the dancer shares a relationship of technology with her pupils, many of who often juggle dance practice with other activities.

As classrooms change from the guru-shishya parampara, where disciples learnt under their teachers almost all day, modern-day classrooms become another place where the strict classical often merges with everyday tech.

“They lack time, have a fast-moving life. Technology helps in a certain way. They don’t even have time to write their notes and make sketch drawings of every movement — that we needed to make because there were no photographs or tape in our times,” Eshwar told IANS here.

Even doing dance for them is a great thing, she said, adding that some of her students who are as young as six years use the mobile phones to record the movements and practice it later.

“Technology as a teacher helps a lot. When I’m teaching my professional-level students, who’re all abroad, and they want to learn a new item, I just tape in it my class bit-by-bit, and upload it. I send the lyrics, meaning, everything and they ask questions and seek clarifications — as per the usual practice.”

Many factions of the artiste community are still sticking to pure classical, but Eshwar sees no harm in mixing it up a little.

“The lives of our generation, our parents, our grandparents was so in tune with arts. My grandfather used to tell mythological stories to children in the evening. That link is not there for children now.

“Antariksha Sanchar was an eyeopener for me. I’ve found that little bit of electronic music gives interest in the classical idiom for the youth. If I just have classical, many youth find it ‘boring’,” said the prolific author and Bharatanatyam guru at the Triveni Kala Sangam.

Why the fusion?

“Without deviating from that classical tradition, keeping it intact, we’re using technology only for enhancement. We’re not losing the grammar. It depends from dancer how you can merge and keep moving forward.”

Eshwar will bring another one of her multimedia Bharatanatyam opera ‘Akhandalaya: The Unvanquished Rhythm’ to India Habitat Centre on July 31, where she is slated to perform with her pupils.