Visualization in Bharatanatyam for creative aging
Bharatanatyam is comprised of a variety of components that are uniquely beneficial for creative aging. At the Goddard Riverside NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities), I have had the privilege of working with older adults for the past several weeks. With this group, I wanted to work on a piece that was focused on visualizing different scenes. The piece I came up with is that of a dream – in this dream, we walk into a world where everything is clear and pristine, the colors are vivid, the air is fresh, and it has just stopped raining. The leaves are a shade of green that is clear and pure and the most vibrant green we have ever seen.
As we enter this dreamscape, we observe everything around us, the flowers, leaves, creepers and vines, and worms. Since it has just rained, we can feel that the air is humid and we can still feel the last remaining raindrops. We see a pool of water in a clearing and describe the water that is gentle and serene. Over the course of the piece, we have different animals come in to get a drink of water. For a deer, we focused on its eyes and recreating its leaps with our eyes. We had a turtle which helped us think about stillness as a critical part of (any) dance. Participants shared their choices for animals as well, e.g., one dancer wanted her cat in this dream, and we were able to think of and recreate the movements of a cat with our shoulders. To do this, we first became cats, saw the squirrel that we were going to prey on, crouched, and did the telltale “stalk and pounce” movement of the cat. We practiced focusing our eyes on the prey and isolating our shoulder movements in a manner that is intentional and deliberate like a cat’s.
Working on this piece seated gave participants the chance to think of and embody the different rhythmic patterns that different animals have, and to think about the different ideas we associate with particular animals e.g., elephants bring to mind the idea of stability, whereas rabbits evoke the feeling of jumps or bounces.
Over the next several posts, I will show some specific examples of how we embodied the animals and this dream world. I will also talk about how observation and visualization are important for Bharatanatyam, and how practicing these skills might benefit everyone, but older adults in particular. Stay tuned!
Picture credit: Janai at Goddard Riverside NORC