Natalie Savelyeva

S Sarada Teacher about Dance Dramas

A dance-drama should not exceed two hours. While presenting a dance-drama, care should be taken to select an inspiring theme. Only those parts which are full of rasa should be elaborated, the other parts should be used as links. The sloka-s should be selected and the number f players, major and minor, determined. The number of characters should be kept to a minimum; there is no need to fill the stage with characters. In certain dance-dramas, the patra pravesam (entrance of the character) is the description of the character. For a major character, the entry should be slow, for a moderate character medium and for the minor character, fast. During the patra pravesam, if other characters are on stage, they could depict the idea of the new entrant through abhinaya. This should be done without distracting attention from the main entrant.

The dance-drama should come to a close with Nritta and all participants should be present on stage for the mangalam. From the point of view of performance and presentation in a dance-drama , there are no minor characters and major characters. Everyone of the dancers on the stage is expected t be absorbed in the presentation and communicate through abhinaya the idea being enacted. When artists support each other and present the best, it is called rangam, and it is exalted. This shows the unity among artists.

Stage setting

The backdrop should be dark to ensure that the costumes show-off. The d?cor of the backdrop should be simple. Needless decoration on the back curtain will likely obscure the costumes. The commonly present sponsorship banners should never be there. All these large boards and banners completely kill the other-worldliness sought to be created during a recital. The atmosphere is entirely spoiled.

The musicians should be placed to the side of the stage. Care should be taken not to place mridanga too close to the mike. Two tambura-s are a must at any recital.

As far as lighting goes, the variously colored batons which produce the effect of daylight are the best. The old-fashioned rotating lights are fortunately not seen very often today. These, besides being too bright and jarring, turn the dancer into different colors. In the case of sophisticated light arrangements, various effects can be conveyed depending on the scene being enacted.

Footlights should not be too bright as they distort the figure of the dancer. I once witnessed a program in which he dancer seemed too fat. Only when I saw her at close quarters after the recital I noted that she was hardly fat; the damage had been done by the footlights.

Props should not clutter up the stage. Depending upon the dimensions of the stage, the impression of depth can be created. Props should be minimal and indicative.


Tailors today are the authorities by whom dancers are guided, as far as costumes are concerned. This is not correct. Costumes should ne made according to the age and built of the artist. To make the standard costume for every person irrespective f age or built shows a singular lack of attention. Very often one finds the dancer attired in ill-fitting costumes. The piece which is meant to cover the back hardly does that any more. It is very often ill-fitting and reveals more then it covers. The color of the costumes should be right; no black, for example. The dancers should wear the lighter shades and plumper ones the darker hues.

Jewellery should not be too flashy. When head adornments are used, they should be used completely. Flowers should be there to adorn the hair, not to cover the whole head and neck. Flowers like December and large quantities of Kanakambaram are totally inappropriate.

Make-up is necessary to a degree, as artificial light would likely make the dancers look too pale. But this does not mean the whole thing be overdone. Large quantities of rouge make face monkey-like. Eye shadow be minimal and the eyes and eyebrows should be made up correctly. Drooping eyebrows will only convey sorrow.

It is sufficient to say that the costume and makeup of the dancer should convey a picture of elegant refinement and not one of a dressed up doll.


Good music enables good dancing. The accompanying music should be full of bhava to enable the dancer to give a moving portrayal. The words should be clearly audible and not drowned by the drum beats. Rehearsals are a must so that the musicians can be familiar with the chosen compositions. It is all right to refer to the book once in a way but, by and large, the music should be memorized. Correct mike adjustment is vital, to ensure clarity, mellowness of the natural voice and resonance.

In this connection it would be fitting to say that electronic gadgets are today replacing the human being. Video tape and cassettes are being used for practice but this can never be adequate. These gadgets should not be misused in the name of convenience.


Descriptions should be crisp and short, whether the narration is by the dancer herself or by someone else. The purpose is only to inform the audience of the compositions chosen, not to bore them.


S Sharada "Nirmalam", Madras, 1997