I have heard many people say, “What's the fuss? It's just a performance.”
First of all, it’s not just a performance and I am not Shah Rukh Khan. I DO NOT entertain. And, about the fuss… picture this-
2003, India Vs Pakistan World Cup match, Viru and Sachin walk to bat. They will be facing the attack of Shoib Aktar in the first over. The whole nation was tensed. Can I ask, what's the fuss?
Ours is a cricketing nation but have you all ever wondered what would have been running in Sachin's mind until he had to walk to bat? He is a master player, he has mastered every shot in the book, and yet, he can get out on the first ball, isn’t it? The day of a crucial match is always so voluminous for any sportsman. How many times have we seen how the occasion gets the nerve of a sportsmen? Now, how different is a trained performing artist different from a sportsman? Personally, we all want everything to go right all the time. But we also know we don't have control over anything.
Discipline the body, discipline the mind, it is said. Disciplining the body is easier, it is disciplining the mind where there lies trouble. Until the moment of taking the centre stage, the mind must be kept empty but not blank. It must be kept empty so that it later transforms itself as a vessel but it must not be blank such that it ends up creating a hole in the vessel. Why a vessel? Because a vessel fills itself with space on which colours, textures, lines can be painted. And, that will be control, balance, grace and emotions for any dance form.
For a dancer, there is always the fear that the body will refuse to cooperate with the mind. The body has a mind of its own. The butterflies in the stomach gets created by the body's mind. When the stomach catches, I have to just simply surrender to the ten thousand or more butterflies flapping all at the same time. On the other hand, if the butterflies don't fly, that is also a cause of worry.
You must have heard many share that music largely helps to focus in preparing the mind to be in the present. But for me, that doesn't work. I still will want my sub conscience working on the music that I will be performing for. So generally, I listen to Vedic chants. Not the musical chants, but the original way that a learned scholar would chant- as mantra-s. Why? Well, if you chose math as your main subject, can you take biology as an auxiliary? The same funda! I have chosen Indian classical form as my tradition, so I choose mantras to calm my head and heart. I can't introduce anything that will disturb me and my emotions, diverting my focus from whats to come.
The fuss is also about getting the process right! The process of preparing the mind, preparing the body. And I am not alone in this process... I have heard Valli akka, the Bharatanatyam diva who I look up to, share that she still has those butterflies all the time, even today. I have heard Kapila, the Kutiyattam exponent share that for some performances/roles, she prepares by keeping a fast for 'x' number of days. To reach a peak on a certain day is again easy to achieve, but having to do it consistently is what makes it difficult.
But besides all this, for me, it’s about - how has this discipline enhanced my entire journey (knowledge and experiences)? That's the entire big picture! From that point, the real conflicts I have to deal with is- how can I be a in a glamour profession and still seek the formless? How can I not let the knowledge and beauty get to my head? How can I handle all the adulation of people on stage and come to terms of being a nobody the next minute I remove my make-up?
Well, honestly, I am always trying.... Trying to work a way such that the adrenalin rush doesn't take over my body and mind. And that is why, the cooling down process for the body and mind begins much before the performance itself. Otherwise, adrenalin can just ruin the calm and vanity can take over just like that. Vanity... man! It's a serious thing. In Kali Yuga, it is written that Kali, takes the form of vanity- kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (illusion), mada (pride), matsarya (envy). No matter which stage of life, so long as we are part of the material world, we are all susceptible to any of these above mentioned characteristics.
Art and living cannot be two different things. Hence, the fuss for me is, I have to shield my atma from not taking on a wrong identity especially choosing to perform for glory, glamour, or greed…!!!