There are some dancers who always enchant and mesmerise the audiences with not just their perfected moves but even with their divine beauty. When a dancer plays the role or showcases the character of a goddess and by just looking at her, the audiences feel the Devi would actually look just the way as she did on stage, it means the dancer gave us a live darshan of the goddess. There is once such dancer who does just that and I am talking about the gorgeously stunning Padma Shri Geeta Chandran.
A celebrated artiste and a star performer, her name is synonymous with the Indian classical dance: Bharatanatyam. A survey by a renowned publication called her the ‘hottest dancer’ of the Capital. This Saraswati Puraskar awardee started learning Bharatanatyam at five under the guidance of her Guru Swarna Saraswathy who hailed from the traditional Thanjavoor Devadasi Parampara.
Geetaji is one artiste who not only uses what she has learnt under the Guru-Shishya parampara but she enhances her art even more by using personal vision of dance into her performances. In her shows and presentations, she weaves abstract notions of joy, beauty, values, aspiration, myths and spirituality.
She is celebrated not only for her deep and composite understanding of the art of Bharatanatyam but also for her Carnatic music. She is trained and accomplished vocalist as well. Her work in television, videos, films, theatre, choreography, dance education, dance activism and dance issue journalism has forever been appreciated. No wonder that an artiste like her has been given the title of ‘Outstanding Artiste’ award by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). I feel honoured to inform you that the elegant Geetaji and me have one thing in common — we both are the recipients of the National Excellence Award, the only difference is she was given this honour in 2008 and I received it in 2016.
Natya Vriksha, the organisation founded by her, enshrines the best philosophies of Indian classical culture into young dancers. At her institute, she not only teaches practical dancing and its theory but also imparts the knowledge of the related fields like music, aharya (costume and make-up), stage design, sound and light technologies.
Tamil and Telugu languages are mostly used in Bharatanatyam and this language is alien to most of the students coming to Natya Vriksha. It is an uphill task to make them understand the nuances of these languages. Geetaji takes special care and interest in imparting the meaning and ideas underlying the lyrics her disciples learn. She also familiarises her students with our ancient epics, legends and mythology, which form the foundation of the Indian classical dance experience.
Natya Vriksha celebrated its 25 glorious years in 2016. I remember asking her how she feels finishing 25 years in the field of teaching dance to people of all ages, she said, “Teaching first generation learners with almost no background to Indian culture has not only been a challenge but also a great learning process for me. Teaching means constant upgrading and unlearning at the same time. Students are constantly evolving and every few years one notices how they approach dance with different skill baskets. One has to be aware of these realities while crafting the pedagogy. Also teaching has to be wide-angled, giving the students scope to explore all aspects of dance. Today, teaching can no longer be geared to creating performers alone. At Natya Vriksha, I try to create DANCERS PLUS!!”
Geetaji is one artiste we all love and respect a lot, not only because she is beautiful and a highly gifted and talented dancer but also because she has unconditionally given her life to educate youth with the finer nuances of dance and all the issues and subjects related to it. She is a guru, a mentor and a guide in the very true sense who enriches lives of every person who associates with her in anyway. I salute the dedication, perseverance and determination of Geeta Chandran with a heartfelt pranaam!!!
Sandip Soparrkar is a world renowned Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with National Achievement Award and National Excellence Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]