Body percussion is a challenging but expressive dance form: Bharat Verma
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
With an aim to develop his art across the country, India’s first and only-certified Body Percussionist Bharat Verma started off his proprietary production, Bharats’ Beat show (BBS) in June this year. Beginning the show in Mumbai last month, he plans to take it to all across the country. He also launched an academy to teach body percussion, last month in Mumbai, and plans to hold workshops all across the country.
Deeply inspired from The Stomp show in New York and London, he experiments with a lot of props like sticks, paper, stools, besides kitchen tools to create rhythm. “I have also experimented by creating a fusion of body percussion with Garba and Khartaal,” he says. In conversation with Life & More, he tells us more. Excerpts:
Why did you pick up Mumbai to start a batch?
Mumbai is the hub of performing arts in India. The whole country, as well as the international audience, looks at this city when it comes to dance, acting, and other such arts. Hence, starting the first batch in Mumbai will give my art the right exposure at the outset, and that’s why I started with the City of Dreams.
When and how did you get attracted to body percussion?
I am from a very humble background in Udaipur. My father wanted me to get a good education and a white-collar job. However, right from my early school days, I was passionate about dancing, and by the time I turned 13, I had decided to become a dancer and a choreographer. I used to skip school and spend my time practicing dance. I started with wedding choreography gigs in Udaipur. Since the city is a famous wedding destination among Indians and foreigners alike, I used to get some incredible opportunities. During one such event, I was introduced to Vanaver Caravan by the Big Medicine Charitable Trust (BMCT), a music company known for contemporary and core percussive dance. They had come to Udaipur to perform body percussion, and after seeing my interest and passion for their art, they invited me to the US. It was almost like love at first sight as I found their rhythmic musical dance to be unique, challenging, expressive, and high-energy. I gave it a shot, and that’s how it all started.
Does one need to have formal training for this?
Yes, formal training is needed to practice and learn the art of body percussion. I am the first and the only certified body percussionist in India. I recently launched India’s first body percussion academy in Mumbai, and we will start the first batch soon. Dance lovers interested in learning this art can join the course. My students and I will be the sole practitioners of body percussion in India.
What is the status of body percussion in India vis-à-vis other nations? Which country tops the list?
Body percussion is comparatively unknown in India. I am the first Indian to go to the USA and learn the art. This art is practiced in many countries in the West, but the USA leads them all.
What instruments do you use as accompaniments?
I have experimented with various props such as paper, stools, chairs, sticks, and even Indian kitchen items. I have also created a fusion with folk instruments such as manjhira, dhappang, and khartaal for my dance performances.
What do you mean by developing and exploring this art?
It means innovating with Indian traditional dances such as Garba and folk music instruments such as Khartaal, Manjhira, Dhappang, etc as also exploring its great therapeutic benefits.
How receptive are Indians to body percussion?
As a population, Indians are naturally inclined towards dance and art. In the early days, people didn’t understand my performances well enough, but now there is a lot of interest generated wherever I perform. People are showing interest in learning body percussion. It is not an easy form of dance, but one that can be learned with patience and practice.
In the several workshops I have conducted and performances I have done, I have received fantastic response from all ages, especially teenagers and youngsters. It feels great to see people come up to me and tell me that they know me because of my body percussion performances and love my work. With my academy in Mumbai, I will be able to take this love and response further.
What is the course structure?
There will be four levels with six months duration each. I have created all the courses, which are affiliated with a New York-based company. After six months of practice, the students would clear each level and get an international training certificate at Body Percussion Academy in India. I plan to coach students on mind training, metronome training, and different rhythm patterns of Indian classical, Carnatic, and Western forms. Students will also be trained to perform body percussion by integrating one rhythm with another in different ways, such as sitting, standing, or dancing.
Who do you look up to as the ultimate body percussionist?
There are a number of renowned body percussionists internationally who I look up to. However, some of them have achieved a special place in my heart. I look up to Keith Terry and Barbara Cocconi and am amazed by the whole team of ‘The Storm.’ All of them have fantastic creativity.