IN CONVERSATION with Harihara Palani
Nurturing the Dancing Body
A living testament to the boundless capabilities of the human form, a dancer's body is a finely tuned instrument through which artistry finds expression. It is more than just flesh and bone. It is a testament to discipline, to artistry and to the profound connection between body and soul, a conduit through which the language of dance finds voice. Much like a rare, delicate instrument, a dancer's body is not impervious to the passage of time and the rigours of performance. It requires a devotion woven into the very fabric of a dancer’s life, a reverence akin to that of an ancient temple, to keep it in its prime. Here at Attakkalari, we prioritise rigorous training and nurturing the dancing body with equal significance. Dancers are encouraged to pay close attention to their bodies, a twinge, a protest, a subtle shift in balance - all are messages to be heeded and warning not to be ignored. Our dancers are also regularly guided by fitness experts on how to condition their bodies and prevent injuries.
We recently had an opportunity to engage in a brief tête-à-tête with Harihara Palani, a seasoned nutritionist and fitness expert, who has been instrumental in designing the fitness module for Attakkalari’s Diploma program for several years. His guidance and training has notably elevated the fitness levels and physical conditioning of numerous diploma students, leaving a lasting impact on their overall well-being.
Q. In your experience, focusing primarily on athletes, what notable distinctions have you observed when assessing the varying abilities and fitness levels of dancers?
When evaluating individuals, be it a dancer, athlete, or an average person, the fundamental goal is to ensure their body is capable of performing their daily activities without risk of injury. This entails a pain-free experience with unrestricted movement. However, for dancers and athletes, there are specific demands. They need to train and focus more intensively, in terms of both strengthening and stretching, to maintain optimal muscle condition and achieve a broader range of motion. This targeted training is designed to prevent injuries. The key difference lies in tailoring the exercises and training to the specific requirements of each discipline, whether it be dance or athletics. This is a general overview from a fitness standpoint.
Q. Could you provide insights on key daily practices individuals can integrate into their routines to condition their bodies for dance training?
It's important to acknowledge that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to training. Each individual's body may have unique considerations such as joint issues, range of motion, and medical history. That said, a good starting point would be to incorporate simple, well-executed exercises, basic stretches, maintaining a balanced nutrition, and ensuring ample rest on a daily basis. These practices can provide a solid foundation for preparing the body for dance training.
Q. How has your experience been working with Attakkalari and the Diploma students?
It’s always been rewarding to work with Attakkalari and the Diploma students. It’s been an experience working with different students from different geographical backgrounds.
Working with Attakkari for over a decade and my association with the organisation spanning over two decades has added a personal meaning to our connection. The students I have worked with come from various age groups and regions, each with their unique concerns, often related to their physical fitness. I take pride in being able to assist and support them, it has always been gratifying to receive great feedback from them. Every batch presents a different challenge making my experience engaging and dynamic.
(As told to Pami Brahma, Manager - Education, Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts)