When facial expression fails | Daily News

When facial expression fails

Facial expressions in Indian classical dances are generally embodied in the concept of Nava Rasas. Nava Rasas are the important essence of Indian classical dances. They are not only found in Indian classical dances but also they are the most important and dominating factor in almost all the Indian classical dance forms, dramas and even in many of the Indian folk dances.

Most of the Indian dance forms interpret the meaning through beautiful hand gestures, Bhavas and Rasas. Normally, Bhava means inner emotional feelings in the Nirthya aspect of dance.

Classical Bharatha Natyam consists of three varieties of dance. They are Nirtha, Nirthya and Natya. Nirtha means the pure dance which consists of the Adavus, stands (Mandala positions), body positions, footwork, combined hand positions and hand gestures. Nirtha simply reveals the pure dance.

Story-oriented dance

Nirthya consists of expressions Bhava (emotional involvement) and essence or the substance of Bhava which is often referred to as Rasas. Natyam in dance means the story-oriented dance.

However, today’s Bharatha Natyam has lost the essence of dance due to the absence of Rasas in the stage performances. If we analyze the reasons for the absence of Rasas in this classical dance form, the present mentality of students and teachers is responsible for the unfortunate situation.

Institutional methodology, syllabus-based curriculum and the craze for certificates are responsible for declining Rasas in today’s Bharatha Natyam.

Earlier in the Gurukula method of imparting techniques and approach adopted by the traditional Nattuwanar gurus was totally different.

The traditional Nattuwanars were the outstanding gurus and mentors of dance.

Those days the traditional Nattuwanars took the classes with full dedication and devotion. They worked with students without considering time limits. Therefore, according to the ability, talents, interest and involvement, they spent the maximum time with students.

Even in a group class, the number of students was limited. Individual attention was paid to each student.

They tried to uplift the interest and involvement of the individual students. Hence, every aspect of the dance was taken into account and they taught perfectly.

Until the student mastered the selective aspect or piece, the guru would not move further. Hence, almost every nuance of dance was well trained, giving more attention to bring out the facial expressions. The gurus induced the students to bring out their inner feelings.

However, in today’s Bharatha Natyam field the interest, involvement and the approach of students, teachers and the public are totally changed.

Most of the teachers do not understand the level of their students, interest, understanding power, IQ level and psychology.

Mechanical performances

It is the responsibility of teachers to induce the Nava Rasas in their performances. Today’s Bharatha Natyam performances are very mechanical and the facial expressions (Nava Rasas) are almost absent.

Twenty to twenty-five years ago the attraction of Bharatha Natyam depended not only on the glittering costumes or jewellery but also on the interpretation of the songs through appropriate and meaningful facial expressions. Yesteryear dancers such as Abhinaya Queen Balasarswathi and Mylapore Gowriamal gained fame in the classical Bharatha Natyam due to their exceptional talents in the way of facial expressions (Bhava Rasas).

Now more attention in present Bharatha Natyam world is given to the pure Nirtha factor such as steps or adavus than that of Nirthya (Bhava and Rasas). In the present generation dance field, those who are using facial expressions are labelled as cinema type of dancers. It is a misinterpretation and misconception of the facial expression. Due to the long absence of facial Bhavas in the stage performances, most of the people feel using facial expressions is akin to cinema type of dance. This type of understanding in the present society is also one of the causes for the declining factor of Nava Rasas (nine emotional Rasas of facial expressions) in the dance field.

Nine planets

Bharatha Natyam is totally based on Hindu philosophy. In Hinduism, the word ‘Nava’ plays an important role. Nava means nine in number. Navagrahas means nine planets; Nava Sakthi means nine-fold Sakthi of Goddess Durga, Navathaniya means nine different varieties of grains used for poojas.

Navarathiri means nine nights devoted to three different Sakthis. Navaratnam means nine precious stones in Tamil and Hinduism. Navamy in the Hindu calendar means the ninth day after the full moon day and the ninth day after the dark full moon day.

Similarly, in Bharatha Natyam Nava Rasas mean nine different feelings. Nava Rasas are Sringara Rasas (erotic sentiment), Hasya Rasas (laughter), Veera Rasas (heroic sentiment), Karuna Rasas (benevolence), Ruthra Rasas (anger), Bibacha Rasas (Odious sentiment), Bhayanaka Rasa (fearful sentiment), Atputha Rasa (astonishment sentiment) and Santha Rasa (peaceful sentiment).

Without the inner involvement, dance reveals the flower without the scent. The application of Nava Rasas in the performances is very much needed and such practices should not be discarded in any case.

Mostly to show or illustrate the Nava Rasas in Bharatha Natyam in the present era the Bharatha Natyam artistes only reveal the nine expressions through still photos not much in stage performances. 


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