“I did my Masters in Arts and Aesthetics where I specialised in theatre and performance, visual studies and cinema. I learned that every Indian art form is inherently interdisciplinary. You cannot know one without an awareness of the other. A dancer should know about art, poetry, music, how to hold your body like a sculpture and so on. While doing my M.Phil and Doctoral studies, I focussed on the manifestation of dance in the art history context. All of this is highly specialised information, which requires poring over hundreds of Sanskrit and Tamil texts, and conducting ethnographic research as well. Being an art and dance historian, I felt it was appropriate to utilise my training in Bharatanatyam as a medium to unveil history in all of its splendid and expressive grandeur while translating it to my audience in an accessible way. The public would benefit from a theatrical experience of their heritage, but more importantly, from comprehending the power of tradition,” says Gayathri Iyer.
Dance is not just a visual medium but an embodied medium as well. She adds. “If you look at the picture of a temple, you can admire its beauty. But when a dancer describes how tall a gopuram is through her expressions, you feel as if you are present in that space with her. My Bharatanatyam performances rely on the abhinaya tradition to weave together historical sources, textile traditions, textual narratives, heritage spaces and soundscapes to create a multi-sensory experience of dance and history. I work for years at a time, to breathe life into our shared past as accurately as possible.”
Not just interpret and question tradition, Gayathri believes that one should practice and preserve it the right way. “We have to incorporate it into its rightful place in the education of the future. That’s why in my dance classes, I teach all aspects of Bharatanatyam that include dance costumes, the textile tradition of south India and so on. I also do dance lectures on social media for the public,” she sums up.