This entire post was sparked by the incredible urban dance artist Brian Puspos and this video:
The first time I watched it, it brought me close to tears. There was something about the way he interpreted the lyrics, his deep emotions, and close relationship with the rhythm that made this pop.
And then it struck me...this is abhinaya at its best! What am I doing thinking of abhinaya as an esoteric medium restricted to be within the definition of Indian classical dance???
He has a word to word meaning - choosing the most important parts of the sentence to describe to the audience. He uses hastas - grabbing, catching, showing his heart. His facial muscles show anguish, pain, resolution, happiness, and all in a dance like manner. What else is abhinaya if not that?
This got me watching more and more hip hop videos. And then, I realized, bharatanatyam has something to learn from hip hop. We often think we are difficult to understand, follow, etc - but then you watch hip hop and it's much the same. Hip hop's positions - bent knees and arms - are enormously grounded and rhythmical. Its movements isolate arms, legs, torso head, eyes, in similar ways to bharatanatyam. Spatially it often keeps to one spot, just as Indian classical dance does. It's not about flexibility, turns, or leaps. It has an intense geometry.
I could have just described Indian classical dance's most important values in the last few sentences. So maybe us artists can get a kick of inspiration, intensity, and a different viewpoint all together by realizing that we are more than our history...we are less esoteric, less different, less "other" than we think these days.