Natalie Savelyeva

"Varnam is like a river, we cannot enter the same river twice."

(Rukmini Devi Arundale)

Understanding Varnam

One more thing I have understood - how dance comes into body when we study new composition. Balasaraswati was ingeniously right when said that padam is the music danced.

It true in case of any composition. Varnam is the best example.

First of all, the mood of Ragam comes - how if flows, how its shades are unfolded by different patterns of swaras. Ragam creates space or vessel for emotions expressed by Sahityam. After getting together with the melody you start feeling like to express more - and ask yourself which bhavam the composer tried to convey through words.

Like in Chalame Varnam - heroine is stunned by indifference and coldness.

— "Why are you indifferent?"

Her feelings are overwhelmed. She is asking again and again - and doesn't receive any answer. This situation awakes many different emotions, which develop from inside and become more and more intensive.

Strong emotions evoke deep feeling of attachment and love, which she expresses in second line of Pallavi,

— "My beautiful Lord, in my heart"

She rises above her pain and sadness of situation. She describes her love in terms of beauty of her beloved and her admiration.

Her love brings her even higher and resolve itself in pure and elevated devotion confessed in Anupallavi -

— "I have always been here, at your feet"

In tender and sympathetic Muktai swara she recollects deeds of her beloved - with tenderness and wonder.

— "You came quickly, at first call to help your devotee"

In Charanam she opens her heart in highly emotional plea,

— "Why don't you save me?"

Then bright sequence of chittaswaras come, each bring forth different emotion - tender love missed up with regret, admiration and rapture, wonder and devotion mixed up with incertitude, and in the last one she tells story of Draupadi, identifying herself with the latter, expressing anguish and hope, love and terror in together.

Bhavam is born by Ragam and Sahityam through singing, it comes naturally.

Next step is understanding Jathi-s (sollukattu) and feel the rhythm. Rhythm lives in heart (not in legs! as many people think). I understood it while jogging - I recited jathi-s in mind and somehow the rhythm came in. I started feeling it.

Last step is choreography - Adavus, Korvays and whole spatial design of the composition. Space is marked by the flow of music and bhavam. Rhythm arranges patterns of time. Choreography is like superstructure, held by basement of Music and pillars of Rhythm. It emphasizes and intensifies bhavam, makes it visible.

While putting rhythmic patterns of adavus and korvays over jathi-s and swaras, I felt how it comes into body, how it gets connected with musical rhythm of composition and how it reflects intensity of bhavam.

Now I feel strongly: only after such preliminary work, done inside, without any outer distraction, dance proper is possible. It starts living from inside out, like growing embryo. It becomes inseparable from heart beat, feeling of music and thalam. This is right time to start doing dance. Varnam is alive. Expressions come naturally, bringing out reach inner feeling - bhavam.