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Nurturing a traditional art

ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India) is striving to propagate the dance form in a big way. Its president, M.V. Narasimhachari, talks about the organisation.

HAMSASYA, A mudra from the Bharatanatyam repertoire, was chosen as the logo of ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India), which was formed to bring together artistes, gurus, accompanying musicians, technicians, critics and aficionados in the field of Bharatanatyam. ABHAI symbolises what it literally means in Sanskrit, the concept of Abhaya or no fear. The mudra also suggests peace and fearlessness.

ABHAI, which started in a small way in Chennai, now has 800 members. The idea was to create an atmosphere of cooperation and better understanding among the artistes, audiences and accompanying musicians, and also to represent the common problems such as travel concessions and other pressing needs.

In its resolution, ABHAI has declared that it will not function as a performanc-oriented organisation but only as a welfare association.

ABHAI hopes to build a theatre complex with rehearsal halls, library, audio and video studios and lodging and boarding facilities for visiting artistes, with Government support.

In an interview, M.V.Narasimhachari, the president of ABHAI, talks about the organisation and its aims.

What is the aim of ABHAI?

We want the youngsters who are learning Bharatanatyam or are in some way associated with it, to give thought to the future of the dance form. The aim now is to have our own place, which will facilitate artistes and also offer performance opportunities to many an up and coming artiste. The Narada Gana Sabha has been very supportive, by giving space. But it is not enough.

What are the activities that ABHAI is currently involved in?

We conduct monthly workshops where youngsters are exposed to the style of other teachers. The workshops have been quite popular and have been drawing a good number of students.

What about the artistes?

Many of them have been doing some thing or the other for accompanying artistes. We went to see the late Sethuraman (vocalist) while he was critically ill and offered whatever help we could. We did the same for Veena Kannan.

How do you mobilise funds?

Membership fee is a one-time payment of Rs.1,000. We are looking for members abroad and other Indian cities.

Is Bharatanatyam becoming more of a hobby and less of a profession for dancers?

Yes. But because of some dancers who perform more as a hobby, many accompanying artistes, costume designers, make-up artistes and other technicians are able to survive.

What are the future plans of ABHAI?

We have to set certain standards in the field of Bharathanatyam and give more opportunity for dancers of merit. We want to help artistes who cannot afford to pay and perform. We also want to create value systems and professionalism in the field of Bharatanatyam.

V.R.DEVIKA

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