Dance is more than just a few steps. It is a form of storytelling. This is especially important in classical dance, like Bharatanatyam. One cannot properly perform Bharatanatyam until they understand the meaning behind each step and each word. This is why we started our theory classes. Theory class helps our students understand what they are performing and as a result, we have seen a great improvement in their performances. Here are a few of the ways that theory classes are helping our Bharatanatyam students:
1. Helps them understand what they are performing
Teaching slokas, stories and thalam helps students understand what it is that they are performing. This helps them express better and thus perform better. Most importantly, when students learn the meaning behind steps they understand the choreography much better.
2. Prepares them for higher-level Bharatanatyam
Students who don’t start learning theory from the beginning face great difficulty when they reach the Varnam stage because they don’t understand what Bhava and Rasa are and the whole concept of Abhinaya(expressions). That’s the reason we decided to start theory classes from a young age. If they are able to understand these core fundamentals at a young age, they will have the foundational knowledge needed to succeed at higher levels.
3. Enables them to succeed in university exams and Arangetram
Understanding theory will help students who wish to take certification exams in the future. Every year we have 10-12 students who take the certification exam held by a Telugu university. Succeeding in this exam also helps older students in their college applications as each certificate holds a certain amount of college credits. Additionally, we noticed that kids who do not spend time on theory when they are young struggle when they start preparing for their Arangetram. One year of preparation is not enough. That’s why we decided to train students early on so that they don’t struggle in the future.
4. Sanskrit is very beneficial to learn
Sanskrit is the mother of all Indian languages. Students who learn Sanskrit will have a far easier time learning their own mother tongue and other Indian languages. The Sanskrit language also teaches students about versatility. In Sanskrit, there are over 200 words that mean water, each under a slightly different context. These things help our students understand the small nuances in expression that make a performance complete. It is also an extremely rhythmic language. Merely by chanting the Sanskrit slokas, students are able to better understand the rhythm and beats in their choreography. Not only does the Sanskrit language have a lot of benefits for older students but many private schools have made Sanskrit a part of early education too nowadays.
5. Teaches students about our culture and values
At Pranavam, we believe in helping our students become well-rounded individuals. This includes teaching them our culture and values. Theory class allows us to do just that. When they understand the meaning behind different slokas, they also learn a lot about our culture and what it means to be a good person. The more they recite it, the more they integrate these lessons into their own lives.
Understanding theory is just as important as learning the steps. This is why we integrate theory into every Bharatanatyam students’ learning process. Theory is what takes a dancer and makes them into a performer.