Yashoda Thakore’s podcast ‘Her story of dance’ discusses the alienation of Kalavantulu hereditary performing artistes from the modern-day narratives
Yashoda Thakore first learnt of the famed courtesans Muddupalani and Rangajamma when she did her Master’s in dance. Her grandmother had recounted Muddupalani’s acclaimed work ‘Radhika Santvanam’ as a gem of Telugu literature, well-known for its ‘Radha bhava’. Yashoda was thrilled on the very concept that she might be a descendant of somebody like Rangajamma who was famend for her magnificence and literary expertise. Her professor painted these ladies as illusory beings!
However, she discovered a silver lining in her hard-earned dancing profession when she witnessed Maddula Lakshmi Narayana first carry out — a girl who was in all probability in her 70s and was definitely not an “ethereal beauty” by as we speak’s ‘standards’. “Draped in a silk sari replete with a waist belt, kaasulaperu and bulaaq, she blasted to life,” says Yashoda. “I wept quietly in the darkness but I felt relieved. Here was Maddula Lakshmi Narayana, a Kalavantulu woman who sang and danced! She was real! Her hair was haggard like mine. She was dark-skinned and possessed a bony structure. She was me!”
Yashoda, in dialog along with her pupil Sampreeti Malladi, captivates listeners by way of many such compelling narrations in her podcast ‘Her Story of Dance’. The expansive podcast discusses the alienation of Kalavantulu hereditary performing artistes of the coastal Andhra area from the dance discourse and educates the viewers on caste, regionality and cultural hegemony within the context of the appropriation of artwork from these communities. Numerous visitor audio system herald various views to the dialogue; the checklist of students and artistes who’ve pitched in is an extended one — Saskia Kersenboom, Rumya Putcha, Annabattula Lakshmi Mangatayaru, Urmimala Sarkar, Yendamuri Subba Rao, Suneeta Rani, and Srividya Natarajan.
Yashoda’s search for her roots took her to little hamlets in Rajahmundry and different areas in Andhra Pradesh, the place she met hereditary ladies like Kotipalli Hymavathi and relearnt items like ‘Salaam Daruvu’, a tune of salutation offered as a part of ‘Mejuvani’ classes, which have been sometimes non-public night soirees for the elite. When Yashoda carried out Devadasi Nrityam, she realised the accountability and gratitude of representing the historical past of her group and have become conscious of the place of artwork in society.
Male members of Kalavantulu households have been proficient musicians themselves. “My maternal uncle Saride Subbarao was an accomplished violinist who learnt from the guru of Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, whom he accompanied when he was young. Our families had several male professionals who played instruments,” says Yendamuri Subba Rao, a percussionist, who accompanies Yashoda when she performs Kalaapams, a forte of the hereditary ladies. Yashoda learnt the Bhama Kalaapam and the Golla Kalaapam from Annabattula Lakshmi Mangatayaru and her sister Leelasai, who’re presently the one individuals from the group who train these distinctive theatre items.
With the disenfranchisement of hereditary ladies artistes, particularly within the post-Independence years, the fledgling members of the group discontinued studying and practising the artwork, as they have been compelled to look for extra ‘respectable’ occupations. They adopted new social identities to achieve acceptance. The male progeny took over the reins of the beforehand matriarchal households and ultimately got here to the conclusion that artwork was not for them.
Censure and Unlearning
The erasure of hereditary aesthetic sensibilities from modern-day classical dance is probably finest mirrored in the best way shringara was seen by the dominant cultural forces who ‘reconstructed and revived’ dance within the Nineteen Fifties. “I learnt a Kshetrayya padam ‘Okasarike’, which was quite popular in the early 20th century, from Kola Subramaniam, a hereditary dancer. This padam is an explicit expression of female eroticism and teases Muvvagopala. It was censured by the ‘revivalists’ and deemed unfit to be taught to students,” says Yashoda. Dance was regulated closely to bolster patriarchal norms. “The sensual content in padams and javalis was used to keep hereditary women away from the art form but later the dance and the dancer were seen as distinct from one another to facilitate appropriation of the art.”
Yashoda, a practitioner of each Kuchipudi and Devadasi Nrityam, feels that performing solo in Kuchipudi is a structured enactment the place all dancers be taught and current standardised choreography. Devadasi Nrityam presents a personalized strategy and is organically executed, prioritising the dancer’s particular person capability and physique traits. Training beneath the Kalavantulu ladies was an train in unlearning for Yashoda, who needed to peel off animated expressions and be cautious of her posture.
An intriguing part within the podcast focuses on the transposition of the origin of regional dance types primarily based on mythological histories. Yashoda believes that these altered narratives performed an essential position in eradicating dance from the our bodies of feminine hereditary dancers and relocating it to a distant legendary previous, disregarding chequered socio-political occasions. Another phase particulars the Islamic and British affect on the tradition of the hereditary artistes and displays how classical dance was actually multi-cultural and syncretic.
Yashoda has confronted immense opposition and othering in her journey to assert her id. In the ultimate episode, she divulges her lived experiences of how she was blatantly slandered by quite a few friends and sniggered at for her shringara expositions attributable to her social location.
When it involves reparation, there are not any substitutes for illustration and attribution. Yashoda hopes that the youthful members of Kalavantulu households will take delight of their lineage and reclaim their rightful place within the artwork world. She additionally asks them to be aware of the turmoil that their ancestors underwent to guard their clan amidst intense societal scrutiny. She says the hereditary performing group needs to see everybody dance however expects that due credit score is given, as a result of that is largely the fountainhead of the present mainstream dance repertoire. “There is a certain grace in acknowledgement. These women not only existed in memory but will continue to exist in dance forever.”
The author is a rasika of
classical music and dance and in addition performs the veena.