Mohiniyattam dancer, Dr. Mythili Maratt Anoop, sharing details about her 10-day Basics Intensive workshop says that she kept the first three days open to anyone interested in joining free of cost. She did this because of the current situation where most people are confined to their homes, and anyone interested could just explore the art form. “I did not expect so many new people to show interest, but many joined for the first three days. In the first three days, I explained the basic flow, circularity of technique, taught a few exercises, a few adavus, eye exercises for abhinaya which are useful for any performer or any individual for that matter, and a small Chollu from Sopanam music,” says Mythili. She says that two of her senior students, Veena Unnikrishnan and Sherli E demonstrated a Cholkettu in the Carnatic style and a Mukhachalam from Sopanam style to illustrate the differences.
“The feedback I got from the newcomers was that they found the dance very beautiful and challenging. They found the three days very intensive as I gave detailed explanations for the movements, their rationale, comparing it with other dance forms. They said they did not expect to get so much from three days,” says the exponent. She says that people who joined were Bharatanatyam dancers, Arya Bharat, Shruthi, Shwetha Raghunathan, Vaishnavi, Kushala, and Sahitya Ramkumar and her mother, Revathy; Dr. Samiksha, a Kathak dancer and faculty from Delhi Kathak Kendra; Sneha, with some initial training in Mohiniyattam, and some people with no background in dance – Amrutha Tilakan, a software engineer from London, Archana Vasudev, who runs a start-up in Bangalore. “I was very happy with the response, most of them fell in love with Mohiniyattam and some of them want to pursue it,” Mythili says with pride.
The Moham founder says that the main aim of the workshop was to consolidate and organise the different exercises and adavus she has learnt from the different schools of Mohiniyattam – to bring together the best practices. “I have learnt the Kalamandalam and Kalyanikuttyamma styles of Kerala extensively. I have also learned the basics and compositions from Nalanda, Bombay in 2008, and the basics and a composition of Bharathi Shivaji’s School through workshops. I have personally been using movements from different styles in my own compositions, and wanted to organize the adavus into different groups, beginning with the simple to the more complex movements,” she says.
Delving into the beauty of different Mohiniyattam dance schools, Mythili states that every school has a beauty attached to it. “I try to imbibe the neatness, clarity, grounding of the Kalamandalam style I have been learning from my guru, Kalamandalam Kshemavathy; the Andolita – the swinging movement and rise and fall of Kalyanikuttyamma’s style that I learnt from Smt. Gopika Varma; the beautiful free flow of the torso in Bharathi Shivaji’s style; the dynamic execution of chollus from Sopanam music through a different set of adavus that I learned at Nalanda and at Shruthilaya in Bombay, and the use of the eyes with absolute clarity and precision that is have learned through workshops from Guru Nirmala Panikker.”
Mythili expresses that this is an exciting time for Mohiniyattam, when its technique has been enriched through the work of many gurus and she has been blessed to learn from so many great gurus. “I wanted to share my own love for the dance from what I have been able to learn so far, and as for my students, there is no end to my expectation. I expect them to grow into better dancers than me,” she says.
On an invitation by the Moham founder, Odissi dancer, G Raman Kumari, also introduced the technique of Odissi and taught a few movements to workshop participants, so that they can appreciate the difference.