TFA’s Collaboration with an Italian Ayurvedic Center – Experience

Culture, Dance, Education, Music
To say that I went to Florence, Italy to work on a performance, would not be quite telling the truth. The objective of my three month stint in Florence was purely to begin a 3 month introductory course of Indian Dance . It was a collaboration with an Italian Ayurvedic Center, as part of their Liberal Arts Programme.[] The affiliation had begun earlier this year – as part of the Temple of Fine Arts’ (of which I am dance director) expansion programme into Europe, i was in Florence in January, teaching a month long course at the same center. As the results of this proved quite successful, we decided to extend it, hence my arrival in Itay’s summer season to teach again, this time a more substantial, intense programme. My experience over the last five years, in regularly visiting Europe – either performing or exhibiting my work in Paris and Italy – gave me the confidence to create this sort of a comprehensive programme for local Italian students. Employing the Indian dance techniques of Bharatha Natyam, Odissi and Kathak, this seasonal course is meant to slowly take the students from a beginners level to a semi professional one over a number of years.
My arrival and subsequent teaching during this second season was smooth. But being an active dancer, my body was aching to dance. An initial search via the Internet for  a ballet class or any form of dance brought no results. Armed with nothing more than a fervent prayer one Saturday morning, I searched the streets of Florence. What proved to be a mere  enquiry for a ballet school led me to one of the most memorable days of my life and more than a mere answer to my prayer!

 As I walked into the picturesque compounds  of the Opus Ballet School, I heard the thunderous rhythms of flamenco boots. My hurried pace to the reception, for enquires of class times etc seemed to float past my focus on the rhythms that only seemed to crescendo. I stood watching the class, from behind a glass door ,was  mesmerised by the absolutely fabulous moves of the visiting Spanish Master,Manuel Batandos and crisp precision and charisma of Italian Master,Claudio Javarone [ACADEMIA DE BAILE ARTE Y FLAMENCO]. Being the  final day of a 3 day workshop, involving students from around Italy, I was fortunate to be there. Their curiosity as to my presence was expected, i must hve made an od picture indeed – a sari-clad woman, rooted in one spot for 4 hours . The masters came up to me in their break and offered me a seat inside, and we exchanged name cards. Language was abrrier, but it was at best superfluous, as we spoke in in signs and with our hearts. There and then we began our collaboration. Manuel Batandos, taught me some Flamenco moves, I taught him some Indian dance moves and we simply had fun exploring our individual styles.

 This of course  led me to take flamenco lessons, twice a week from Claudio Javarone, who was based in Florence. From this point, I began working very closely with Claudio, an extremely creative dancer who is willing to explore and go beyond the usual scope of flamenco.  My initial suggestion to try our two dance styles was absorbed with enthusiasm. You see, for years I had wanted to work with Flamenco and Kathak, simply because the origins of Flamenco began from and ancient style of Kathak. Even the ‘bhols’ or pnueumonic syllables of ‘takita and takito ‘ are similar. Apart from the use of shoes and bells tied to ankles, the styles , rhythms and footwork hold amazing similarities!

 Claudio, being an extremely busy teacher [apart from Florence, he teaches in Torino, Perugia and Poggi Bonsi] and performer, did not lend us many rehearsal hours. Despite this, and between my teaching and painting times, we managed to put in as many rehearsal hours as possible. As the performance drew closer, we realised that  our collaboration had developed and grown,  at which point  we decided that we required the collaboration between our musicians as well. So we sought the help of tabla-player Vickneshwaran Ramakrishnan and Sitarist Kumar Karthigesu, establish maestros from the Temple of Fine Arts in Perth and Kuala Lumpur respectively. Their arrival and work with Cladio’s Spanish musians, El Nino on percussion and Marco Perona on guitar, created an intense, mind blowing sort of magic we could have never anticipated.

This extremely invigorating mix of dance and music , people, language  and cultures,was and still leaves an electrifying buzz within all of us. Thoroughly enjoying our rehearsals , coffees and company, the collaboration took us to new heights in ‘Rasa’ (aesthetic experience). It is a known fact that when the dancers and musicians gel well, the performance takes on an uncommon brilliance. And we felt it….

 Our performance ‘AGNI’- meaning ‘fire’, at the Theatro Limonai, Villa Strozzi, , was held on a memorable day-07/07/07, and was part of the FIESTA FIRENZE.[ Fi.ESTA – Firenze Estate 07 -> The beautiful outdoor theatre, is set within the prestigious and famous gardens of the Villa, houses about 700 guests. Every seat  was filled and the audience’s response  was amazing……after a moment’s total silence, after our final pose, came a thundering applause.

But more than the thundering applause from the crowd, was the deep-set sense of satisfaction within us, the sort of applause that rises within you when you realise something has happened that’s bigger than yourself, and you know that other people can feel. It is overwhelming and all encompassing.



(Sarasa is the deputy director of Saraswati MahaVidhyalaya and one of two Artistic Directors of The Temple of Fine Arts Inc. Perth This was a journey in 2007)