Just breathe: This body awareness workshop is just what you need to find balance in life
Joining the bandwagon of movement-based shows in the city is Bengaluru-based interdisciplinary artiste Priya Kaul, who will conduct The Ordinary Movement Workshop, where participants will take part in exercises and activities that will help them approach movements in their own unique and authentic way. “In this workshop, we will explore how it is weaved into our day-to-day activities and interactions. Daily activities like sitting, standing and walking are the outer skeleton, which are then delved deeper into and rediscovered by the participants. The one major focus throughout the whole session is on the breath —it is the element that strings everything together,” says Priya, who is a trained Bengaluru-based dancer and a graduate in Contemporary Movement from Attakkalari Centre of Movement Arts, Bengaluru. Ahead of the workshop, we caught up with the artiste and found out the core philosophy and the various focus points of her workshop. Excerpts:
How were you drawn to contemporary movement? What were the biggest lessons you learnt at Attakkalari?
I have learnt bharatanatyam since I was seven years old. Although I knew I wanted to be an artiste, I ended up following a more conventional route of making a living — doing an MBA and working as an analyst for five years. Those five years in corporate life were also when I lost touch with dance. My heart kept going back to it though and trying to find ways of rekindling the passion that I had lost and forgotten. That is when I found out about Attakkalari’s year-long diploma program and this time I didn’t want to go back just to the form I knew. I wanted to explore and learn a bit more of the unknown. I quit my job in 2013 and stepped into the program with an open mind and an eagerness to learn, but with no idea of what contemporary movement was.
My biggest learnings at Attakkalari were mostly not related to any dance technique; rather they were about an understanding of my own body and respecting it. As I had returned to dancing after a long gap, my body was not ready for the intensity and I experienced some injuries. It was tough for the morale a lot of times, but I always remembered my long term goal was learning, whether it was while dancing in the class or sitting on the sides. I also learnt how to accept my body for what it is, the way it is and understood that I do not want to adhere to a certain image of a dancer body. The way each person has a different personality, their bodies are different too and movement cannot be approached in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ manner. And lastly, I think one of the most impactful things that I experienced at Attakkalari was movement improvisation — I found so much connection with myself in letting go.
How easy is it for a classical dancer to adapt to the style of contemporary movement?
I feel we can adapt to any form of movement with interest and time.
What are the key differences and the subtle commonalities between classical dance and contemporary movement?
For me, the contemporary movement is a very broad term that can encompass various forms or techniques. It is a movement that is relevant to present times. And hence, it is difficult for me to compare it to classical dance. For me, a classical dancer can be a contemporary movement artist also — it is more about the thought process or approach. My bharatanatyam teacher, Chitra Chandrasekhar Dasarathy, is a classical dancer, yet her approach to teaching and her work is very contemporary to me, as she is constantly exploring and delving into new methodologies too.
Tell us how you were inspired to come up with the idea for this workshop and how you went about conceptualising it?
I was actually inspired to do this workshop while conducting another body awareness workshop called Antargat, which I curated for bharatanatyam dancers, the focus of which was on gaining an alternate perception to understand the body while exploring outside the form. We worked with basics like weight shifting, transitions, pauses, body in relation to the floor, etc. After the workshop, I was very curious to know how the breath-body-mind connection would be for a person who has not spent any time training alongside their bodies. Few days after that, I was casually lying on my couch, looking at my phone and realised that I was holding my breath and there was stiffness of sorts in my upper back. I was not present in my body and my breath helped me identify that. It made me think of the occasions that we go about in our daily lives not paying attention to how and where our body is placed in the space or we completely forget to even let the breath flow continuously. Hence, I chose to explore breath along with the very basic movements of sitting, standing, walking and sleeping.
How important is the awareness about one’s own body in today’s world? How will this workshop help participants achieve the same?
Our focus most of the time can be towards ‘doing’ rather than ‘being‘, for various reasons, and physical bodies are the most tangible way of returning to the present moment. Awareness of one’s own body is not just for self, it helps us understand and respect another person equally and be more compassionate. The workshop will create a space where the participants can be vulnerable and connect more deeply. I will guide them through various exercises that will enable them to rediscover movements in their own authentic way while staying connected to their breath.
Are there any physical requirements for participating in this workshop? How can one physically and mentally prepare for it?
As of now, it is for everybody except someone with major injuries or a chronic health condition. I would recommend just having a good rest physically and mentally before and after the workshop. Mastering the art of balancing naturally takes years of practice. Do you have any tips that you can share with anyone keen to practice this art? Finding balance is a constant journey of losing your centre and returning back to it. Being open and accepting one’s own flaws and finding solace in our own imperfections can help us find our uniqueness — our own centre.
What’s the target audience of this workshop? What’s the duration?
I have created this four-hour-long workshop keeping in mind adults who have had no training in dance. However, this is beneficial for anyone.
Where are you conducting this next?
The next workshop will most probably be in Bangalore. However, I am hoping to conduct more of this in Chennai.
December 14. 11.30 am to 3.30 pm. At The Swingers Dance Inc. Details: 99161-40884.
(You can get contact the writer at karan.pillai@newindianexpress.