Dance and Music has always been a passion since childhood for accomplished Kuchipudi dancer and faculty, Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Dr. Vijayapal Pathloth. In an interaction with Natyahasini, Dr. Vijayapal Pathloth reveals that he used to participate in all his school events with pomp, especially in Dance and Music. “I was initiated into dance as a child in school and my teachers included me in all school cultural events. I was attracted towards the Kuchipudi repertoire, since my schooling, as one of my teachers was a Kuchipudi dancer, who choreographed all school events,” he says.
Hailing from a tribal background, with no roots in arts, his parents didn’t encourage him to learn Dance even as a hobby. Today, the PSTU faculty has done his parents proud. He not only scaled the academic front with MBA, M. Phil in Tourism Management and highest degree Ph.D. in Dance, he shares that being a male dancer he has a liking for Bharatanatyam. “I also like Odissi, Kathak, Perini and Chau. I was initiated to learn Perini and Andhra Natyam from the legend, Padma Shri Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna and SNA awardee Kala Krishna garu. I always love to explore and learn new forms and incorporate the technique in the new choreographies, but not as a complete repertoire,” he states.
Never Missed Dance: Recalling his life’s journey till date, Dr. Vijayapal Pathloth says that after schooling, academics were a priority. “During my graduation, I pursued Certificate course in Kuchipudi Dance and performed extensively in dance productions of all my Gurus. Even in the busy academic schedule, I never missed dancing. After my MBA, I started working for an MNC in the night shifts and had few leaves for dance performances. I missed many performances that included foreign tours too,” he says with a heavy heart. To fulfil his dancing desire, he joined Masters’ Program in Dance and quit the job. “After Masters, I pursued M. Phil in Dance, earning Gold Medal for research work thus paving the way for enrolling in Ph.D. at the University of Hyderabad. If I look back, I have pursued higher academic studies in Dance than my regular studies,” he says.
A Graded Artist of Doordarshan, Dr. Vijayapal Pathloth has essayed several lead roles in different Dance drams. “I have worked with over 20 eminent dance gurus in more than 50 Dance dramas both traditional and innovative and played more than 30 characters. Also, I have choreographed various dance items and dance productions,” he says and is proud of authoring two books “Hasta Mudra Therapy – An Effective Aspect of Dance Therapy” & “Lambaada – The Unique Cultural Heritage”.
Pursuing a profession that gives immense joy, the Kuchipudi Guru and teacher states: “Joining as a faculty of dance at PS Telugu University gave me lots of happiness, satisfaction and support to continue my passion for dance further. The students here are very enthusiastic and passionate of learning the art form that drives us to explore more and more details while we teach theory or practical. Most of the students show their thirst of learning which is evident through their out of box questions.”
Decoding Art Educator & Dance Therapy: Decoding the difference between an Art Educator and Dance Therapist, the PSTU Teacher says: “Art Educator educates the art form in terms of its nuances, intricacies and technicalities of repertoires; whereas a Dance Therapist heals particular ailments by using the effective technicalities of dance.” He adds that Dance Therapy is a new entrant in the domain of Dance in India despite its origin and evolution in the US, UK, Europe, and Australia since the 1930s. “My research concept, Hasta Mudra Therapy is one such aspect in the domain of Dance and Dance Therapy in specific that is explored and proved scientifically effective in curing certain ailments,” he says.
During his dance journey, Dr. Vijayapal Pathloth had the privilege of learning under dance stalwarts like Gurus Chinta Adinarayana Sharma, Prasanna Rani, Manju Bhargavee, Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna, Kala Krishna, Professors Alekhya Punjala, Bhagavatula Sethuram, Jonnalagadda Anuradha, Jaya Manohar, Sudershan Singh Dr. Uma Ramarao, Padma Bhushan Dr. Swapna Sundari, Padma Shri Dr. Sobha Naidu, Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry, Aruna Bhikshu, Dr. KV Satyanarayana, Dr. Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry, Pasumarthy Keshav Prasad, Gopal Raj Bhat, Raghav Raj Bhat and many others. I had the good fortune of learning Nattuvangam from Late Mahankali Mohan. Inspired by the revived Kuchipudi dance technique, I always consider myself as an Ekalavya student of Guru Padma Bhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam,” he says. The dancer adds that learning from various Gurus and Mentors has given him lots of inspiration, support and stability, while acquiring knowledge with various insights, inputs, intricacies and nuances of various domains both academically and professionally.
Make It Part Of Curriculum: The PSTU faculty agrees that Dance should definitely be introduced in the curriculum along with the other core subjects. “Not only Dance, but Music, Folk Arts, Painting, Crafts, Vedas, Slokas etc should be a mandatory subject from schooling. Later, this can be an optional elective from college education. Institutions like RGUKT have taken initiative of implementing the Fine Arts and Performing Art programs as part of their curriculum and I am involved as a resource person in framing the RGUKT syllabus. The output of this program is good enough and the students are taking up dancing as their hobby after their study at RGUKT,” he says and quickly appeals to the State and Central Governments to encourage Dance & Music as a course in curriculum in Schools and Universities.
Quizzed on where he loves performing, the artist clarifies that for him Dance is to ‘Express’ not ‘Impress’ and he loves performing both in the temples and auditoriums. “Dance is a divine art form that brings us closer to the Gods. Majority of the literature in the dance items are on Gods and hence we get immersed in the spirituality inside and out. Performing in the temple premises is bliss and gives the holy experiences that can be treated as an offering to the deity of the temple,” he says.
With over 1500 performances to his credit, Dr. Vijayapal Pathloth confesses that Lord Shiva is his all-time favorite and a challenging role to have portrayed it several times (over 100). “An artist portraying the role of Shiva needs to justify the role with effective nruttabhinayam (Tandavam) while carrying the costumes and the props like jataajhuta (wig), snake and rudrakshaa maalas around the neck, arms, wrists, lion skin and yagnopaveetham on his body etc. An artist has to balance both dancing and the unique character props,” he says. The Kuchipudi dancer states that exposure and experience of portraying various roles and stage performances has helped him to choreograph various Dance Ballets like ‘Sapta Tandavam’, ‘Telugu Vaibhavam’, ‘Ramyam Dashavidha Rupam’, ‘Milita Natyam’, ‘Vigneshwara Vaibhavam’, ‘Natya Vaibhavam’, ‘Natya Sangamam’ and ‘Kuchipudi Vaibhavam’ besides choreographing several solo, duet and group numbers.
Dance Study, A Must: According to Dr. Vijayapal Pathloth, it is definitely essential to study the intricacies of dance for a perfect performance. “A well-structured homework has to be done before a dance presentation. After a thought analysis into the literature of the vaaggeyakaara’s, one has to analyse the characters and their characteristics in the literature with respects to the Nayika, Nayaka and other companions. Based on their characteristics, one has to choreograph the dance piece through effective Bhava abhinaya / bhava prakatana (expressions). Once you analyse the literature and the characters, one has to choreograph the aangika abhinaya (footwork and body movements) and saatvika abhinaya (facial expressions. After choreography, we need to select suitable costume (aahaarya abhinaya) while presenting the dance piece. During a dance presentation, one has to take care of the stage props, effective lightings, audio, authentic dance items description etc for better output,” he mentions.
The dancer has performed at various platforms across the country and globe, but performances at Temple shrines like Tirupathi Naadaneerajanam, Srisailam & Srikalahasti, Shivaratri celebrations, and Natyanjalis at Chidambaram, Tanjavur, Kumbakonam, Thiruvarur, Thiruthiraipoondi, Theruveezhimizhilai, Nagapattinam, Thirinallar, Pondicherry etc. have left a lasting impression and divine experiences. “It’s a dream come true for me to perform for Melattur Bhagavata Mela Festival in the Natyamela tradition where female characters are also portrayed by the males. I portrayed Goda Devi in Amuktamaalyada Dance Drama,” he shares.
Dr. Vijayapal Pathloth points out that being a Male dancer is very tough to make a career. “Choosing Dance as a profession is very challenging for the male dancers as their livelihood should be well planned and executed. The opportunities and encouragement are very less when compared to female dancers. The male dancer has to prove himself to get opportunities and the presentation has to be very unique and aesthetic,” he says and pleads that the societal view of degrading a male dancer with respects to the gender sensitization, behaviour patterns etc has to change and they have to be accepted as they are. “Only the talent and professional skills are to be considered and they need to be encouraged and supported in all aspects to pursue and make dance as their profession,” sums up the Kuchipudi dancer.