Play-Shop: Unlocking facets of storytelling
Led by the versatile Ramaa Bharadvaj, Play-Shop was an experiential workshop organised by Narthaki and presented by ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India). The workshop delved into the intricacies of character development, role embodiment, and the art of expressing emotions on stage. “It is important for a dancer to study the layers in the verse or poetry,” emphasised Ramaa as she opened with the popular Ekadanta sloka on Ganesa.
The workshop was centred around Ramaa’s objective – ‘laugh, imagine and think’ and was thoughtfully organised, with a perfect balance of theory and practical exercises. She touched upon aucitya, vibhava, anubhava, and anukarana to discuss various techniques for building multifaceted characters.
How does one create a compelling character? Participants were given hands-on activities designed to put theory into practice by improvising exercises and role-playing scenarios. The segment on expressive techniques was a standout. The facilitators delved into the nuances of body language, facial expressions, and slight modulations to effectively convey emotions to the audience. She came up with interesting adjectives and asked them to respond spontaneously. For example, a toddler, an old man, someone being chased, a devious personality, a drunk one and so on. These exercises enhanced our acting skills and fostered a sense of camaraderie among participants. Feedback and constructive critiques during role-playing sessions further accelerated the enthusiasm of the participants.
In her ‘fun’ shop, Ramaa interwove facets of Indian and European aesthetics and anecdotes from her life and learning. “In a nutshell, information, knowledge, experience, and wisdom follow a process, and one has to patiently work, read, observe and allow oneself to grow,” shared Ramaa.
Another interesting activity that dancers enjoyed was ‘inflexion’ or emphasis on a word that could change how one thinks and emotes. Therefore, drafting a script is not similar to writing an article. She elucidated how the meaning of a sentence and the technique of body language changes with shifting prominence on each word.
Along with the several take-aways, what stood out was how she turned her workshop into a motivational experience for dancers. “Develop your own vision statements because that is what will make you unique and give your work a direction and a purpose,” reiterated Ramaa.
Dancer and Founder of Narthaki, Anita Ratnam, concluded the session with her insights on creatively using props. She put forward how the fluidity and expressiveness of dance, with the innovative incorporation of props, can result in a captivating fusion of movement and artistic storytelling. She said that through guided exercises, collaborative routines, and improvisational sessions, one can hone their technical dance skills and learn how to seamlessly integrate props to evoke specific moods, themes, and narratives. Anita brought a hat and a rope as examples and asked the participants to experiment.
This workshop broadened the horizons of the eclectic range of participants comprising learners, performers, theatre lovers and dance teachers.