Abhinaya (emotional expressions) is an integral component of Indian dance where the Abhinetri or dancer or effectively uses apt Abhinaya to evoke appropriate emotional response in the audience….writes Prof Geetha Upadhyaya, OBE
The London based sisters, Annapoorna and Chamundeeswari Kuppuswamy, academics in neuroscience and law respectively are also equally adroit Abhinetris specialising in the art of Abhinaya.
Obtaining their formal Bharatanatyam training under stalwarts in India, the sisters moved to UK and founded their company Nandavana Dance and also identify with their Guru Kalanidhi Naryanan’s India based dance school Abhinayasudha.
Nandavana Dance aims to explore the rich cultural, historical, philosophical, musical and movement potential in Bharathanatyam with an aim to bring it to the forefront. Nandavana reflects the name of the sisters’ grandparents and also stands for a beautiful temple garden dedicated for worship. Hence, for Chamu, the name resonates with her artistic interest in dance and nature and also encapsulates two main themes in dance – Hinduism and Nature!
Juxtaposing their day job as researchers and academics with their dance, Chamu and Annapoorna keep their company small yet collaborate extensively for projects and performances.
While Annapoorna performs as a classical dancer and a musician in India and UK, Chamu choreographs, performs and teaches dance and is currently teaching for the Centre for Advanced Training Yuvagati programme.
Traditional and contemporary work is the forte of Annapoorna who focuses on developing new work driven by the science of movement control. She creates work independently and has also worked with other leading national and international choreographers and jazz musicians.
Her traditional works include a two-hour solo dance drama Thyagaraja Ramayana premiered in London and later performed in India was fully based on the compositions of the saint poet Thyagaraja. The other salient works of Annapoorna are the Vedantic margam, a traditional repertoire entirely based on Swami Dayanada Saraswathi’s compositions, Krishna maargam, a traditional repertoire centred on Krishna and Samskhepa – a window into classical music and dance of India.
Annapoorna’s contemporary theme Verticality choreographically explored the intrinsic capability of a human brain in maintaining one’s upright posture despite various perturbations throughout life.
Chamu’s recent choreography in the traditional repertoire includes Madura Madura Meenakshi, and Bharatha Desha Hitaya. compositions of Swami Dayananda Saraswathi, and lecture demonstrations – A theory of Mudras and Sattvika Abhinaya.
In her work that uses the Bharathanatyam idiom, but departs from the traditional format, Chamu tries to convey discussions and debates on difficult ethical issues through non-textual modes in her quest to understand the significance of such modes of enquiry to legal thought.
Chamu specialised in Bio-law for her doctorate and her interest in Indian philosophy and the application of law in genetic manipulations led her to explore concepts such as pancha-koshas (five sheaths) and mythological themes stories. Thus forming the subject of some of her Bio-dance productions on ethical and legal dilemmas in genetics and genomics research. Phantom Sita, Savithri, The Wonderful Toybox, Body-A Sheath.
However, her passion for nature superseded Bio-dance and Nature-dance took priority as Chamu being inspired by the beauty of British nature, landscape, moorlands and the fauna found a new path for her creativity.
Chamu received Utkarsh – a choreographic award for her new work Maya Mahal based on an episode of the Mahabaratha, exploring five natural elements and existence and using the famous verses from a composition of Aadi Shankaracharya. This choreography, a work in progress will also incorporate Butoh – a Japanese dance form. The aim is to seek synergies in Asian artistic thinking, as living in Britain has enabled her global explorations to forge new identities.
Annapoorna is delving into artistic development in music while Chamu is exploring various aspects of Abhinaya. Another ongoing project of the sisters is to preserve Abhinaya, the legacy of their teacher, by systematically laying out their Guru’s work in a DVD Teaching Kalanidhi Bhani.
“Art continuously negotiates with life and all that we see around us,” says Chamu who sees art as a vehicle to sensitise everyone who are culturally inclined to environmental sensibilities.
“In Britain we lack depth in the environment that supports classicism and classical dance practice thereby posing a challenge and an opportunity” feel the sisters who embrace a positive attitude, find ways to collaborate with like-minded artists, share enthusiasm and think innovatively to reflect classicism in their work.
In UK, seeing more solo work and serious engagement with different institutions, new collaborations being forged between dance, nature and science and additional focussed training on Abhinaya is essential feel the academic artistic sisters.
Asian Lite wishes Annapoorna and Chamu many innovative academic and artistic journeys!