Wednesday, November 29

A passion for classical Indian dance


The pose of Lord Ganesha.

IT all started with a trial dance class while he was doing his medical degree in Bali in 2010 and since then Dr Vimal Jairaman has been hooked on classical Indian dance, particularly Bharatanatyam, a traditional solo dance.

The 29-year-old recalled getting invited for the trial and agreeing to give it a go since he had been interested in dance, both modern and classical, since young.

“It was during my uni days. I was in charge of an event to look for sponsors and ended up with a dance teacher from India, who was teaching Barathanatyam in Bali. So I just gave this classical path a try,” he said.

His busy schedule as a doctor does not prevent him from pursuing his passion.

“I just dance after work,” he said.

In fact, Dr Vimal does not have a fixed time for practice. He just dances whenever he feels like it – practically every day after work. He and his friends do the choreography themselves.

Dr Vimal during one of his performances in Bali.

Barathanatyam or Baratham is a major genre of classical Indian dances that originated in Tamil Nadu, India. It expresses South Indian religious themes and spiritual ideas, particularly of Shaivism and also Vaishnavism and Shaktism. It’s also a form of deified offering.

In Barathanatyam or Baratham, ba means baavam (expression), ra means raagam (music), and tha means taalam (beats of the songs).

The dance is characterised by strong nrittha (pure dance), noted for its fixed upper torso, legs bent, or knees flexed out combined with spectacular footwork, a sophisticated vocabulary of sign language based on gestures of hands, dramatic eye movements and face muscles.

The colourful costumes with golden borders along with temple jewels enhance the beauty of the dance form while the hand gestures or mudraas, footwork, and abhinaya play an important role in Barathanatyam.

The dance items are set to melodious raagas, rhythmic beats or taala, and are usually performed in the praise of Hindu gods or goddesses.

The accompanying music to Bharatanatyam is in the Carnatic style of South India as is the recitation and chanting and the vocalist is called the nattuvanar, typically also the conductor of the entire performance, who may be the guru of the dancer and may also be playing cymbals or one of the musical instruments.

The instruments used include the mridangam (double-sided drum), nadaswaram (long type of oboe made from a black wood), nattuvangam (cymbals), the flute, violin, and veena (comprises a family of chordophone instruments of the Indian subcontinent).


Another pose of Lord Ganesha.

Great opportunity

Happy that he had decided to participate in the trial dance back in 2010, Dr Vimal said it gave him a morale boost and the opportunity to learn body control and good posture, build up stamina and memory power, enjoy the music and, above all, life.

At first, his parents were not supportive, worrying he might get distracted. However, he won them over by ably dividing his time between studying and dancing – and today, he is successful in both.

Born in Port Dickson, Seremban, Dr Vimal, currently working at Miri Hospital, said the opportunities to take part in the Bali Arts Festival, one of the biggest on this island and province of Indonesia, and perform there on numerous occasions are the memories he treasures most.

“Every day is an experience when I dance because of what I can do on stage when it comes to Barathanatyam. For me, it’s a fulfilling feeling and for the dance industry, a very beautiful field to explore.

“One does not know the taste of a fruit if one does not take a bite,” he told thesundaypost.

Completing arangetram

At the moment, Dr Vitam is dancing to complete the compulsory sequence for the arangetram. He jogs regularly to keep fit so as to continue his quest towards this goal.

“I find the flexibility, stamina, confidence and energy involved as well as the sounds of anklets very inspirational,” he said.

He added that it is his wish to complete the arangetram, which is an official performance after one has learnt the sequence of margam, comprising allaripu, kauthuvam, keerthanam, jathiswaram, sabdham, padham, varnam and thillana.

“Once one has learnt all these, one must perform them on a stage called arangetram. That will mark the pathway for a classical Indian dancer,” he explained.