Sonal Mansingh shares the idea behind incorporating yoga into dance, with Ranjeni A Singh.
The dancers gathered onstage to offer prayers to Ganesha as the sonorous voice of the accompanying singer filled the auditorium. But instead of using classical dance mudras,they used yogasana postures to invoke the lord’s blessings.The asanas included Ardha Dhanurasana, Natarajasana, Chakrasana, Parvatasana, Bhujangasana and Ushtrasana. They concluded with the Dhyana mudra in Padmasana.
The occasion was to celebrate the 42nd Foundation Day of Sonal Mansingh’s dance institute — Centre for Indian Classical Dances. Explaining the rationale behind mixing dance and yoga,Mansingh said, “Yoga and dance are inseparable; rather yoga is inherent in dance.By yoga we tend to think only of postures. Yogasanas are static in one place, whereas dance being dynamic yoga, carries the energy all over the stage spilling into space.”
The brass statue of Ganesha, at the side of the stage,seemed to light up with joy at the syncronised offering of asanas. It would have pleased him as Ganesha is a natural- born dancer.As the son of Shiva and Parvati,he seems to have inherited a balanced mixture of tandava and lasya.Though we usually associate Shiva with dance, Ganesha too is associated with dance.According to the Linga Purana,Ganesha is the presiding deity of all branches of vidya, knowledge and fine and performing arts. Ganesha is believed to have started dancing as soon as he was created.
Compared to Shiva’s dance, which is more cosmic, Ganesha’s dance is more sportive.His dance is said to be forceful yet delicate at the same time.The Krida Kanda of Ganesha Purana mentions an occasion where Shiva is delighted at the sight of his son dancing. There is an interesting story about Nritta Ganapathi. Ganesha accidently bumps into Brahma one day.This shocks Brahma and makes him angry.He threatens Ganesha with a curse. In order to please Brahma, Ganesha begins to dance.In spite of Ganesha’s rotund body and big belly, his dance is full of grace. Seeing his swift movements,Brahma is pacified. Forgiving Ganesha, Brahma also declares that henceforth Ganesha will be known as the ‘master of dance’.
It is customary for an Indian classical dancer to invoke Ganesha before a performance.The iconography of Nritta Ganapathi is a popular one.Worshipping this form of Ganesha is believed to give proficiency and success to students of fine arts, especially dance.
On employing yoga to invoke gods,Mansingh says,“Yoga is a perfect balance between body and mind.When that balance is achieved, one becomes tranquil. One is able to enter into the inner space where the Divine is experienced.The Divine has many names and forms or none at all, the sakara and the nirakara. It is up to each individual to approach,imagine,experience and invoke.”
So how did the idea come to her to incorporate yoga into dance? “From childhood, I have been watching and practising yoga at home and in school. Indian performing arts have a natural affinity with yoga.The Natya Shastra describes 108 Karanas, dance phrases which today may resemble yogasana.The amalgam has been in most of my choreographies. People have connected on the quality of ‘meditativeness’ in my dance. Unfortunately, in our times,yoga is seen as separate form life, as if it is a separate domain.This is a huge mistake. If only the true essence of yoga is taught and explained from an early age, many of society’s social ills will be addressed.”