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Bindu Rajendren: Reimagining Spiritual Connection Through Mohiniyattam

Bindu Rajendren, a Mohiniyattam dancer, shares her creative endeavour to reimagine spiritual connection through expressive storytelling.

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Bindu Rajendran

Bindu Rajendren is a Mohiniyattam dance practitioner based out of Brisbane in Australia. Listening to her, I was elated by the blend of composure and enthusiasm in her voice. Her soft courtesy and elegance strike a harmony with the artistic style of Mohiniyattam. More importantly, her passion speaks volumes of her creative endeavour to reimagine spiritual connection through the ecology of expressive storytelling.

Early life

As she travels down the memory, she conjures a happy memory of a bubbly girl swirling to the rhythms of popular film songs over the wooden teapoy at her home. Smiling ear to ear, she was a happy kid who bounced at every step. Born and raised in Dubai, it was her mother who recognised that she has an innate sense of rhythm. She vividly recalls her mother visiting Kalamandalam Mohan, her first Dance Guru. And at the tender age of four, she started her training in Indian classical dance. She fondly remembers her association with her Guru Mohan for over 18 years. He was the caring parental figure who brought her up through dance.

Growing up, dance featured as a single unifying thread that ran through childhood to adolescence. She had a great time because everybody knew her as a dancer. For every school event, her teachers would choose her. When she went on to pursue higher studies in the University of Delhi, she had an equally amazing time. Remembering the college days, a familiar smirk illuminates her face when she shares that her headspace was in dance, and so was her heart. She recollects that the training sessions lasted for 16 hours a day during the inter-college competition. She used to start at six in the morning. At times, she choreographed dance routines until the early morning hours of the next day. Before she graduated, she was not only elected as President of the Music and Dance Society of the College but was also crowned Madonna Payalwali (translated as Madonna with Anklets).

A lifelong learner, Ms. Bindu continues to advance her expertise by engaging in extensive masterclasses with stellar practitioners in the domain of Mohinyattam-Guru Kalamandalam Sugandhi Prabhu and Guru Nirmala Panikker. She has also studied at Melbourne’s Natya Sudha Dance School and Company with Guru Tara Rajkumar OAM. In addition, she has undergone intensive training in abhinaya and theatre under Guru G Venu. At present, she is exploring sopanam sangettam with her instructor, Anil P. Sopanam, alongside working under the guidance of Guru Kalamandalam Sugandhi to gain a holistic understanding of the Natya Shastra.

Life as a Mohiniyattam Practitioner

Although dance had a resounding presence in her life. It was about 13 years ago that she found her calling in Mohiniyattam. When she dances, she has the opportunity to recast diverse experiences. From resilience of deeply rooted trees to the fragility of creepers; from divinity of the Creator to the playfulness of a child; from fluidity of water to lightness of air, everything that exists in the universe, she becomes. For every moment immersed in dance, she becomes more attuned to the nature of life-more kind, more empathetic, and more aware.

“When you become something beyond yourself, you’re able to understand life better. You become more empathetic. And you see the world in a different way.”

She believes that every dancer lives multiple lives to transmute the essence of experientiality in their creative process or even when they are practising. She derives inspiration from the body of work of her contemporaries-she may like the opening act of the first, the precision of technique of the second, the costume of the third, and the list goes on. And she weaves a pastiche of her preferences -her little role model, which she amusingly refers to as a Frankenstein version of the style or characteristics of multiple artists. 

Discovering Spiritual Connection through Mohiniyattam

At the level of an individual, the concept of spiritual union translates as the synergy that emerges when the body aligns with the mind. We cannot decide what is right or wrong unless we are in union with who we want to be. A Mohiniyattam dancer instinctively perceives when to pace up and when to slow down, when to glide and when to intensify the rhythmic motion, and more importantly, when to restrain personal doubts and embrace composure. An open entrance into spirituality is what Mohiniyattam offers to the performer and the audience. To forge a spiritual connection, it is necessary to unwind the fancy forms and fussy frills and go back to simplicity. It requires focusing on the breath-Breathing in, breathing out, and withdrawing from distractions. 

Storytelling in Mohiniyattam

Performed in Kaiseki vritti (poised style), the conventions of Natya Shastra, the ancient Indian treatise on Performing Arts, generically categorises Mohiniyattam, as a lasya (grace) dance, which in itself foregrounds the smoothness and elegance of the dance form. Offeringa compelling insight into the dynamism of Nature, the distinctive essence of lasya imbues nritta (pure rhythmic movement ) as well as nritya (the expressive dance-acting) of the dancer. For anyone, even those not attuned to the dance form, it is easy to perceive and appreciate the lasya of the performance.

Credits: Bindu Rajendren

In addition to lasya, storytelling forms the core of Mohiniyattam. There are as many narratives as there are human experiences. Through eye movements, facial expressions, hand gestures, and controlled footwork, a dancer recreates scenes-of bees feeding on nectar, swans paddling through the water, stories from the life of Lord Krishna, and young children playing ball on a field.

Everything in Mohiniyattam has a beautiful intrinsic connection to the cosmos. Just as the spinning motion of the galaxy takes on a distinctive spiral shape, the basic movement of Mohiniyattam involves rotation in a spiral fashion that originates in the base of the spine. Taking cues from the mutability of the cosmos, the constitution of Mohiniyattam reinforces a deep connection with the Nature of Existence. Everything that exists in Nature finds a sense of space and belonging within the inexhaustible richness of dance form. 

The Blossoming relationship with Mohiniyattam

On being asked about her blossoming relationship with Mohiniyattam, she compares the dance form to an eternal companion that has steadfastly stood by her side. Over the years, she has also recognized the healing power of dance.As an interesting aside, she quickly quips in, “You know, when I’m unwell, say, for instance, I feel sick and have a headache, but the moment I dance, it goes away.” She has immense faith in the immeasurable power of dance, for it manifests the strength to reimagine herself in a new light. 

As a solo artist, she has performed in Australia. She was also commissioned to showcase a creative piece for the erasing borders dance festival. She has also performed for the Dance Synergy Festival, a 26-hour dance marathon to celebrate diversity in the community of artists across genres and countries. On a personal front, she focuses on expanding the horizon of Mohiniyattam, for she is currently experimenting with Sopana Sangeetham, the indigenous music of Kerala. In addition, the characteristic gentle movements of the dance form find a delicate resonance in the soft breeze that softly brushes the fertile land of Kerala. She identifies Sopana Sangeetham as a perfect complement to her performance. Not only does her artistry resonate with the nature and ecology of South India, but she is also passionate about the culture of Kerala in an equal measure.

“Dance has been my eternal companion.”

As she retrospects, she acknowledges that she will not change a thing. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have been bestowed upon her. She appreciates all that she has. Her mother recognised her talent and signed her up for dance lessons at a young age. She is indebted to her Gurus and mentors for shaping her artistic sensibility and creative imagination. After marriage, her husband encouraged her to pursue a postgraduate degree in Dance Studies. In addition, her close circle of family and friends have supported her artistic aspiration. Although as a belated afterthought, she recounts that she wished to have displayed more dedication towards her craft in her 20s-as intensely and intimately as she presently does. 

In a digital era where everything is a click-away, Mohiniyattam comes across as an eloquently constructed dance form that engages the audience in an emotional fullness. The beauty of Mohiniyattam resides in the generosity of ecological and spiritual representations. Anchored in a charismatic aura, the recitals of Bindu Rajendren brilliantly demonstrate how the resilience of spirit integrates with the serenity and poise of artistic endeavour. The blend of simplicity and profundity in her performance stays with the audience for a long time. 

Credits: YouTube (Bindu Rajendren)
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Dance

Pasoori Has Captivated The Whole Country with Its Music Beats

Music has no boundaries; it cannot be resisted the beats, performance, lyrics and visuals. Pasoori fits in different dance styles.

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Produced by Coke Studio Pakistan Season 14, Pasoori is a Pakistani song blending folk music with modern beats sung by Ali Sethi and Shae Gill, the song has gone trending with many dancing to its beats. The song has captivated the people from the other side of the world. As the voice of both, the singers are compatible, and the advanced melody wrapped up in fine beats lures the listeners. Indians have shown much enthusiasm in grooving with the songs.

Shachi Biswas

Shachi Biswas presents a fusion of classical and contemporary styles to give an exquisite performance for Pasoori. Her expressions reveal her joy in dancing. Her elegant attire and the old sculpted building in the background add charm to the visuals.  These energetic dance moves have helped her get so many positive comments and the audience are repeatedly watching this brilliant choreography. Other videos on her YouTube channel have also attracted many.

Credits: YouTube Shachi Biswas

Urvashi Jain and Devika Krishnamurthy

Yet another amazing performance is by Urvashi Jain and Devika Krishnamurthy. This elegant mix of traditional with modern dance styles has hit thousands of views. Their efficient synchronization shows their hard work. No one can resist the grace or skip without watching. A luring experience entangled in the deepest melody. Worth Watching, yes, it is.

Credits: YouTube Urvashi Jain

Payal Shah and Mitali Vasant

One-Stop Dance has been pulling off vivid and brilliant choreography for a very long time. Payal Shah and Mitali Vasant bring this time a beautiful costume with traditional accessories to play Pasoori at its best. The duo has shown immense energy and poise. Their Rafta Rafta song performance is also popular.

Credits: YouTube One Stop Dance

Kashika Sisodia

Another flamboyant dance performance to Pasoori is from Kashika Sisodia. With millions of subscribers, Kashika’s ravishing dance has won many viewers. The background and outfits are also alluring giving a Mediterranean aura. She has used a contemporary style of dancing and has incorporated belly dance too. Kashika gives a visual treat with her stunning steps.

Credits: YouTube Kashika Sisodia

Amrita Sarker

The Pakistani music Pasoori is given Indian touch through its fusion style classical dance by Amrita Sarker. Direction and cinematography are done by Excellence. Wearing a white and red attire and dancing on a  balcony, Amrita stands as a poised beauty with her expressions showcasing her happiness with each step.

Credits: YouTube Picxellence YT

Pasoori continues to travel irrespective of boundaries and languages, straight to the hearts. The purity of folklore pierces right through our ears with the music beats. The soothing and heartwarming lyrics couldn’t be avoided at all. Music lovers may put in loop; one cant ignore the beauty of this great art.

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The Dancers of India: Unique Dance Covers from Different Parts of India

Catch these phenomenal dance covers, each with their unique element and style, representing the dance diversity of India.

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Dance

Dance might just be the right direction to look towards, because it offers us so much solace and excitement. Dance covers, through the growing technology, have reached us with just a click of the button. On social media sites like Instagram and YouTube, dancers have found an easy platform to connect with their audience. Dance covers are a creative form of activity. The amount of enigma, innovation and passion that goes behind dance covers is truly applaudable and inspiring.

Here we have some beautiful dance covers, from different parts of India, to not only celebrate dance, but its diversity too! 

Nagumo – Nimna Nambiar, Divya Raj, Poornima Pradeep

The trio Nimna Nambiar, Divya Raj and Poornima Pradeep present a graceful and poised dance cover on the recent hit song Nagumo from the movie Hridayam. Performing Indian classical dance, the trio doesn’t miss one beat or any facial expressions. They synchronize with each other perfectly, and present to us a calm and serene dance cover.

Credits: YouTube DivzLife

Pasoori – Mohana Meem 

Pasoori by Ali Sethi and Shae Gill has been trending on all music platforms and social media sites. An already great song, Mohana Meem, sparkles it even more with her dynamic and charged dance cover. From the outfit, to the presentation, and the choreography, Mohana Meem completely owned the show! The dance cover completely matches with the vibe of the song.

Credits: YouTube NRITYAM – Seeking Steps to Euphoria

Ghoomar – Nisha Vardhaman

Nisha Vardhaman provides us with glimpses of Rajasthani culture and Rajasthani dance through her phenomenal dance cover of the song Ghoomar. Nisha Vardhaman flawlessly delivers an energetic and enthusiastic Rajasthani dance. She is attired in a Rajasthani outfit which makes her dance performance even more majestic and beautiful! 

Credits: YouTube DhadkaN Group – Nisha

Tapa Tini – Payel Dance Group 

The Payel Dance Group brings to the table the Bengali dance celebrations and culture. The song Tapa Tini is a vibrant and enthusiastic song to listen to. The Payel Dance group adds dynamic and energetic choreography to it. Dancing against the background of green lush trees, and in Bengali attire, the trio will completely enrapture you with their expressions and energy.

Credits: YouTube Payel Dance Group
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Stages Or Channels, Never Let Your Dance Dreams Die Out

Dance as a performing art grows in its exposure through modern technology and digitalization. Young minds are following the virtues of art, these days.

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Dance

Dance as a performing art grows in its exposure through modern technology and digitalization. Young minds are following the virtues of art, these days.

Modern ways of art got a trigger by the arrival of social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, ShareChat, etc. People have started using these to showcase their abilities through vlogs, videos, reels, songs, etc.  This phenomenon was boosted by the pandemic and lockdown.

The talents of India are not confined to physical stages or Television reality shows. The digital revolution has created opportunities for today’s kids to portray their abilities and charm through such platforms. As more people watch their performances, they can earn their own money too. Thus, the YouTube channels have lined up to be a profession for our younger generation. Typical 9 am to 5 pm jobs are fading away in their priority since these can bring fame and money at the same time. Also, they are able to follow their passion and find their own space in this highly busy world. Our children are greater confidence and belief as to achieve what they want for themselves. What time has in its store is a matter worth waiting for.

Nainika and Thanaya

The new film RRR directed by S S Rajamouli starring Telugu actors Ramcharan, Junior NTR, and Alia Bhatt has been a blockbuster. The song ‘Naattu Koothu‘ was a hit even before the movie arrived. The song was danced to in reels and videos across the country. A video of two Indian origin sisters Nainika and Thanaya from North Carolina, New York gracefully dancing to the song ‘Naatu Koothu’ is streaming on YouTube.  With 2.22 million subscribers, the girls have proved their skills like anything. Wearing the same kind of dress worn by the actors in the song, they have come out to the NC streets to dance. Most of all their uploads have been this famous. Recent hits were songs from the movie Pushpa, Gangubhai Kathiawadi, etc… Worth watching dance performances stuffed with real energy and ecstasy.

Credits: YouTube (Nainika and Thanaya)

Shrijita of Payel Dance Group

Another beautiful dance performance is by Shrijita of Payel Dance Group. She dances to a Bengali song ‘Radha Rani‘ sung by Abhishek Aich in Kadom Tole Bose Ache, a 2015 film. Wearing a silk saree, this child plays in the background of trees with immense grace. The channel has group dances as well, that portray Indian culture in its beauty; the most recent viral video being ‘Tapa Tini’ dance cover.

Credits: YouTube (Payel Dance Group)

Ishanvi Hegde

‘Jhumka gira re‘ is a hit song by Saadhna and Sunil Dutt and sung by the legend Asha Bhonsle in a 1966 movie Mera Saaya. Nivi Hegde and her daughter Ishanvi Hegde’s YouTube channel Laasya produces great videos. With mindblowing choreography, apt expressions, attractive accessories, and costumes, the dancer Ishanvi Hegde wins hearts.

Credits: YouTube (Laasya)

Aaditri Mali

Super Dancer Aaditri Mali is another star of the year and her recent video dancing to ‘Dholida‘ song in Gangubhai Kathiawadi garnered all the love from the viewers. This 1.11 minute video has shown her energy and passion for art. She has maintained the character by wearing a similar dress and taking the same steps though. The way she carries herself with her expressions is marvelous.

Credits: YouTube (Super Dancer Aaditri Mali)

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Dancing Enigmas: Some Dance Performances and Covers to Watch

Diving into the dance performances and covers by these enthusiastic dancers and choreographers to cheer up the mood.

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Dance

Dance is the language of love and arts. It transcends the language barriers. It unites us all into one happy moment. Dance is surely an enigma. It is with delight that we watch dance performances and covers, and the enthrallment during this is irreplaceable. Most of the credit, of course, goes to dance as an art form, but also to the dancers and the choreographers who bring to light their blissful performances. There are so many dance genres, and each has its own uniqueness, and its own charm. Be it the energy enthusiastic hip hop, or the calming and graceful semi classical, we cannot deny the presence of either, even though we might have preferences. So, here we have a list of some phenomenal dance performances to lighten up your mood, or maybe move your body along with these dancers!

Tejas Dhoke and Ishpreet – Srivalli 

Tejas Dhoke and Ishpreet present a magical dance performance on the song Srivalli. This sweet dance, with elements of enchantment and vigour, has been choreographed by Tejas Dhoke. You will not find Tejas and Ishpreet missing a step or a beat anywhere. The synchronisation and coordination of the amazing steps makes this short dance performance a fun to watch, and applaud Tejas’ choreographer persona. 

Credits: YouTube Dancefit Live

Karan Sharma and Tanya Sharma – Arabic Kuthu Dance Cover

A power packed performance, loaded with fun, energy and rhythmic beats, is the interlude dance performance you need! Karan Sharma and Tanya Sharma, the groovy duo, deliver all their energy into this dynamic dance performance. The dripping energy will surely make you stand up and groove with them instantly. Both Karan Sharma and Tanya Sharma, also accompany with their dance the best facial expressions as well! You can see they’re thoroughly enjoying the dance as well. 

Credits: YouTube Karan Sharma

Divya Singh – Tum Tak 

Tum Tak by A.R. Rehman from the movie Ranjhana, without a debate and without a doubt, is everyone’s favourite song. Sneha Kapoor’s dance choreography on this beautiful song makes it even a more memorable piece. Divya Singh does full justice to the semi classical choreography. Her grace and elegance synchronises with the sweet melody of Tum Tak and delivers yet another enchanting and soothing performance. 

Credits: YouTube Divya Singh

Srija – Ghanan Ghanan 

The evergreen, Ghanan Ghanan, from the movie Lagaan, has always been the favourite of the songs to do a dance cover on. Dressed in a Rajasthani attire, Srija choreographs an intricate dance performance for this song. Extensive footwork, with simultaneous hand movements, surely Indian classical dances can never be beaten! Srija brings to light a bright, expressive and moving dance performance.

Credits: YouTube Srija Ramakrishna

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The Transcendental Magic of Mohiniyattam: Dancer Honey Unnikrishnan

Mohiniyattam Dancer, Honey Unnikrishnan, takes us on her journey with the Indian classical art forms, and gives us stories to dwell on.

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Honey Unnikrishnan

Honey Unnikrishnan is a full time Mohiniyattam dancer. Her journey with Mohiniyattam has been a cherishing gift and treasure for her, for she has given up her entire heart and soul to Mohiniyattam. The love and passion for classical arts brim in her very aura. This talk that we had with her gave us fruitful insights into the essence of Mohiniyattam, and the hurdles that Honey Unnikrishnan gracefully passed to become who she is today. She is still on the journey of exploration and learning, and her words were like an open window to delight and lessons.

Early Life 

Honey Unnikrishnan is a dentist by profession. However, as is universally known, home is where the heart is, so for Honey, the home was Mohiniyattam. So she chose Mohiniyattam as a full-time profession. She was born in Kerala, and raised in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Honey’s mother is also a full time classical dancer and owns a dancing institution. It was under her mother only that she received a dance degree. Her mother has been her biggest inspiration, since she struggled a lot to be where she is today. As for Honey, compared to her mother, she has received everything on a silver plate. 

As a child, Honey was a jack of all! She took dance classes, along with Carnatic music, veena and painting classes. A very obedient, and a topper in studies, Honey Unnikrishnan was excelling in all fields. At the advice of her mother, she later just focused on Indian classical dances. She started learning dance at the age of 4. Initially, she trained on Tagore music, however, by the age of 10, she shifted to Carnatic Music, and since then has been majorly choreographing and performing on Carnatic music.

Under her mother’s tutelage, Honey Unnikrishnan started learning Mohiniyattam at the age of eight. She used to practice and perform Bharatanatyam often, but in 8th grade, she performed Mohiniyattam for the first time. It was with Mohiniyattam that she felt an instant connection with, and chose to train further in this specific art form. Every day after school, Honey spent hours with her mother practising the dance form. 

Later, Honey’s eyes fell on Dr. Neena Prasad. She saw her Mohiniyattam performance on Doordarshan (DD Malayalam) and was completely enamoured by her. She watched her interviews as well. Honey had the deepest desire to learn Mohiniyattam from her. Luckily, in 10th grade, Honey met Dr. Neena Prasad for the first time in Nagpur. There she learnt that she takes classes in Chennai but because of Honey’s higher studies, she couldn’t visit Chennai. However, after completing her graduation, Honey got married, shifted to Chennai, and a week later joined Neena Prasad’s classes.

Credits: Instagram (Dr. Honey Unnikrishnan)

Mohiniyattam Through the Eyes of Honey Unni Krishnan 

Honey Unnikrishnan describes Mohiniyattam as a magical dance form, a moment of hallucination and trance one experiences while performing. In this fast-paced world, Mohiniyattam provides that peace and calmness to her. She talks further that there is no impossible feat in this dance form, because everything comes down to pure dedication and passion. One can achieve Mohiniyattam’s pure nritta through diligence. 

On a talk with why Mohiniyattam is not as mainstream as other classical dances, like Bharatanatyam and Kathakali, Honey explains Mohiniyattam is perceived as a slow dance by the audience whereas Bharatanatyam and Kathakali is a dance of big leaps and beautiful aesthetics, which delights audience differently. The abhinaya of Kathakali and its techniques are also used by the theatre artists in east and west. Moreover, Bharatanatayam and Kathakali artists have actively promoted these dance forms, whereas Mohiniyattam didn’t get it on that scale. The repertoire of Mohiniyattam has developed little, and it’s a controlled dance form. 

The Evolution of Mohiniyattam

Honey Unnikrishnan states that Mohiniyattam flourished under Kerala Kalamandalam, but later, it again went down. According to her, an art form must be explored at all times. If it isn’t, it gets stagnant. The western contribution is okay as long as the art form doesn’t completely change. The contemporary Mohiniyattam isn’t in its purest form as compared to several years back.

Honey incorporates contemporary narratives into her Mohiniyattam choreographies. Self production takes a lot of time. As Honey reveals, sometimes there are existing Carnatic music to source from but she often has to reach out to songwriters and producers to make a song according to the narrative she’ll be presenting through the dance. 

Message for the Aspiring Artists

Honey Unnikrishnan asks all the aspiring artists to go for it, because there’s never too much time left, especially the young aspiring dancers. She also asks them to keep a good tab of their studies to always have a backup option. Secondly, she asks them to take the challenges, and that these challenges come and go. Honey herself shared one of her challenging experiences. When she started learning with Dr. Neena Prasad, she got pregnant, which was unplanned, but nevertheless she wanted the child. In this unprecedented turn of events, Honey still kept practising till the fifth month of her pregnancy. Honey rejoined after her baby turned 2 and a half months old. During that time, it was difficult to balance the training and family. Honey used to stay up late at night and practice when everyone slept. During the mornings, while cooking food in the kitchen, or some other work, she used to sneak whatever two-three minutes she could, and practice. Honey also mentions that even if you are god gifted, and your grace comes naturally, only hard work and dedication can give you the desired result. Watching classical dance performances will help you explore yourself. Lastly, she also asks everyone to never ask artists to perform for you for free. Artists must be given their due respect and worth.

Credits: Instagram (Dr. Honey Unnikrishnan)
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