Nrityangan Academy Of Fine Arts

Of all the arts, none remain as rooted in ritual as dance

The big idea:
Dance communicates man’s deepest, highest and most truly spiritual thoughts and emotions far better than words, spoken or written. 
- Ted Shawn.

It was a dream, which took some years to realize. An ardent believer in hard work, creativity and ‘never say die’ passion, Ms Anjana Dongre founded a prestigious dance academy and called it Nrityangan. Nrityangan literally means ‘Nritya Ka Aangan’ or   ‘house of dance’. It was her dream since she finished her arangetram, to set up her own institute and impart /share her knowledge and talent with other interested budding dancers. It was her pure dedication towards her dance and the lord of dance, that she single handedly managed the academy for so many years.

Nrityangan Academy was founded in 1992 with the solemn objective of inculcating the spirit of rich culture and heritage of India into the young minds through dance forms. In the ocean of talent, creativity and aesthetics, it is a small step taken by Ms. Dongre towards the preservation of the values that personifies classical, semi classical and folk dance forms. She started with a modest number of 5 students, building it up to 65 at present. With monetary gains not being the goal, the big idea remains to nurture and sculpt the serious students into understanding the deeper philosophy behind these dance forms.

 

The Origin:

"There is no other knowledge, no other learning, no other art, not even yoga or action that is not found in dance."  
- Natya Shastra

Bharatnatyam finds its origin in the Bharatmuni’s natya shashtra which was revealed to him by lord Brahma Himself around 2nd century BC. In Natya Shashtra, Bharat Muni has specified four ways to express ones inner self. They are:

Angikabhinaya: expression through body language

Vachikabhinaya: expression through voice

Aharyabhinaya: expression through ones costume and jewellery

Satvikabhinaya: expression through man, chitt and buddhi

Meaning of ‘Bharatnatyam’ can be comprehended in four parts: BHA means Bhava, RA means Raga, TA means Talam and NATYAM means performance /expression. Therefore a sum performance or expression of Bhava(feelings), Raga(music) and Talam(beats) leads us to the dance called Bharatnatyam.

Bharatnatyam is one of the oldest and richest form of dance, originating from the state of Tamil Nadu.. This is a temple art. Originally performed by Dev Daasis to please the gods in the temple, this dance, gradually lured other women also by its, grace, purity and tenderness. This dance became a form to express the spiritual aspects of human beings, harmonizing the tal and emotions.

This dance form epitomises, rhythm, expressions and melody. The dancer enacts and performs this dance in two parts..Nrittya and Nrtya. Nrittya is pure dance and Nrtya is Abhinaya. While the former represents the amalgation of grace of foot/hand work with the melody (Tal)of music. It does not involve any kind of expression of emotions. The latter on the other hand revolves around expressions, emotions, body language along with enacting any theme or incident.

In short Bhatartnatyam is a way to express the language of the soul. And this is the basic philosophy at Nrityangan also. It helps a dancer to set her spirit free, thereby liberating her from the bodily inhibitions. The moments spent in this aangan helps one to be in touch with the cosmic spirit and hence being a part of the higher purpose of the creator.

 

Philosophy:

The dance breaks down the distinction of body & soul….And the dancer and the dance becomes one.
At Nrityangan we believe in taking part in the cosmic control of the world through dance. ‘Aa se Aakaar tak’… can be summed up as our philosophy. From the time a student enrolls here, she becomes a part and parcel of the aangan. Her needs and aspirations are woven into a routine and complete responsibility is taken for shaping and sculpting her mind and honing the body’s grace.

As our life becomes more and more artificial and we live more and more at second hand, we feel a growing need for that direct contact with life which is felt in dance. The dance forms here become a route to get in touch with ones spirit and thereby transforming the physical dance into a meditation…a time to become one with the cosmic spirit.

 

Dance Forms:

“Dance is a lifelong process of transformation and evolution”

At Nrityangan three types of dance forms are taught:

Classical: Classical dance develops over a period of time into highly stylized structures and forms with reference to art, literature and culture. Classical forms are generally developed within the court or circle of power in a society. Indian classical dance is a combination of Nritta, Natya, and Nritya.

Semi classical: This type of dance breaks the stylized structures and forms of the classical dance, and adopts a   more contemporary feel and steps,. All along the ethos of the basic dance remains intact.

Folk: This dance is typical of a place. Originating with the local people of a particular place, it represents the ethos and culture of that particular area. They form a part of the state festivals and celebrations.

 

Curriculum And Exam:

“Dance is about mind and body discipline which inculcates creative sensitivity and aesthetic appreciation”

Systematic training along with theory provides a strong foundation on which the students then add storeys of enthusiasm, passion and hard work. The above helps in unfolding the deeper meanings related to dance and its philosophies.

The theory includes introduction to Bharatnatyam dance per se, (Its origin and significance) Shlokas from Abhinayadarpanam, Talam, etc .while Adavus (Basic steps) Items (Ranging from pushpanjali to varnam) form a part of the practical training.

An annual exam is conducted in the month of April based on the curriculum wherein the students are assessed by an external examiner.


About The Teacher:

 Through dance one sets ones spirit free and becomes one with the God. It is an artistic form of meditation. An ardent believer in the above thought, Ms. Anjana Dongre harbours two passions in her heart: dance and music. She did her Arangetram under the able guidance of her guru Ms. Uma Devi Dutt from Kalakshetra Chennai in 1987. She is still continuing her process of learning, now from Mr. & Mrs. Venugopal Pillai at Sri Tanjavur Nrityashala.  She is also pursuing her second passion which is music and is learning Hindustani classical from Ajivasan Institute. She has won many dance competition during her school and college days and to fulfill her dream of imparting this knowledge to others too, she.initiated this academy and has been grooming students ever since its inception. Her strength lies in choreographing the items as per the requirement. .She has been invited to various dance performances in the capacity of a judge and  is also in the panel of examiners at Bhartiya Sangeet Samiti. Anjana says a true teacher is not the one with the most students, but one who creates the most teachers to spread the knowledge. She aims at creating many masters who will carry forward the legacy of Bharatnatyam!