An ode to Mudras
It’s her calling she says, to preserve the ancient dance forms of India. Though a Sri Lankan by birth, Ghirija Jayarraj is from an Indian lineage. She lived her early years up to the age of eight in Chennai. That’s where she was introduced to Bharatanatyam.
Even after moving to Australia, Jayarraj pursued her interest, and once she was experienced enough, she founded Shastram, an initiative that aims to preserve and pass on the knowledge of Indian dance forms through shows and performances.
Earlier this year, Shastram made a debut in Bengaluru with a performance that was an amalgamation of tales about ancient dance forms. It was presented through a combination of dances juxtaposed against films in the background. “This idea of a dance-film show is inspired from a childhood memory. I recall being 12, waiting backstage behind the cyclorama in my costume, during the WA Indian Independence day celebration show. An Incredible India documentary was played and I felt transported. Something clicked then,” remembers Jayarraj.
Now, as an established dancer, Jayarraj has been staging shows in Australia and India. She will be coming back again to India with another chapter later this year.“The context explores how Indian classical dance forms have been passed on since the 16th century, and how they are likely to evolve by 2032,” explains Jayarraj.
She believes every element in the show has a reason to be staged. “Films capture the imagination and take you to a different place, but nothing can beat the live energy of a performance,” she says.Though there are patrons overseas for such experiments, Jayarraj insists it is important to connect with Indians, particularly youngsters. “Certainly, we can make more than enough money overseas, but it’s critical that Indians preserve the art forms and own it too,” she says.