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IN CONVERSATION with Minal Prabhu

Lores Of Hands Keeping Count & Feet Keeping Time - A Conversation with Guru & Artiste, Minal Prabhu

A dancer magnifique, artiste and Guru, Minal Prabhu has taught and shaped the understanding of many dancing bodies that have lived, breathed and moved at Attakkalari. Trained in Carnatic vocal music, she is the founder of Mudrika Foundation for Indian Performing Arts and began her journey in dance from Kalakshetra.


As the academic year slowly draws close, we requested one of our esteemed faculty, Minal ma’am to make some time to chat with us about her years with us here at Attakkalari.

 Q.  How long has your association been with Attakkalari? Please give us an insight to the early days of your association, and teaching students of the Diploma programme at Attakkalari.

My association with Attakalari started in  November 2005, even before the diploma course started. Despite my 29 years experience in teaching Bharatanatyam, I found teaching at Attakkalari a refreshing challenge given that I had to teach Bharatanatyam to adults with little or no exposure to Bharatanatyam. When teaching toddlers the basics of Bharatanatyam, a lot of knowledge transfer happens through imitation. But at Attakkalari, given that my students were adults with deep understanding of body and movement, I had to adapt to a ‘logic and reasoning’ approach in my teaching. I got an opportunity to put a lot of passive learning that had happened during my student days into words and cues that were more appealing to adult students of dance. Teaching these students made me look at Bharatanatyam from a fresh perspective and my experience with Attakkalari became as much about learning as it was about teaching.

Q. What is your mode of teaching? Students have often been heard to say that being taught by Minal ma’am has given them an expeditious understanding and grasp of the discipline.

In the past two decades of my teaching at Attakkalari, I have never once planned my lessons. Every batch has been different and I have always adapted my classes to suit the batch in a manner that will help me bring out their strengths. Unlike most other forms of contemporary dance classes, Bharatanatyam is inherently very structured and  therefore, the need to plan a module was never felt.  Students often come with the notion that classical dance forms are redundant. I must admit, I have an eye for such students and I make it my mission to get them to love the art form during my stint with them. And I must say, so far I have been successful in this pursuit.

 

Once the basics are out of the way, I try engaging with the students to create small works using their learnings. And I ensure that the patterns and formations for their performance for graduation is often a culmination of all their creative ideas.

Q 3. Which have been your best memories of teaching in Attakkalari? Would you like to share a few of them with us?

 

I think each and every batch has created some great memories. Each student is special and each batch is special so it's really difficult to share memories. There are too many to list. But I take immense pride in the fact that I am still in touch with many of my students and I cherish the warmth and love I receive from them whenever I meet them.

(As told to Pami Brahma, Manager - Education, Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts)

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