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PHANE JAYANTHI SEN

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 9/15/2016 |


SONGSOPTOK: How and why did you choose dancing as a career?  What specific things would you like for people to know about your chosen career?

JAYANTHI: Before I knew it, dance snuck up on me. I always use this analogy that there's a vine called Wisteria and it just wraps around trees and engulfs them slowly; that's pretty much what BharataNatyam did to me and later Kuchipudi dance. It took me over before I knew it and I realized that dance does open the door to many opportunities; however, there  are many other careers that dance can prepare one for...Dance shapes people, giving them essential skills for all areas of life.Time management, discipline, motivation, dealing with challenges and rejection, persistence, communication skills, teamwork, confidence and creativity are just a few character-building traits that dance can give someone.  I chose the path of rhythm is  because, dance is the bedrock of a creative aesthetic that prioritizes truthful emotion above all else. Dance stems from its spirituality, intricate beauty and grace. By combining my devotion to  dance, my work reflects a high-level quality and dedication to the pure art form and I hope to bridge the cultural boundaries and present Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi in a clear and enlightening manner. I was introduced to Bharatanatyam at the age of 4 by my mother Vijaya Jayanthi, who nurtured my early talent. She has trained under gurus, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy for Carnatic Sangeetam  andPendyala Satyabhama for Kuchipudi Natyam in India. Thus my training in dance started before “formal” Academics. After initial grooming in BharataNatyam under Guru, Natyakala Chakravarty Vasanta Raman of Kalakshetra Bani, I received advanced training in Bharatanatyam under Guru Kalyani Shekhar; niece of K.N. Dandayudhapani Pillai, exponent of Pandanallur Bani. Thus, I imbibed the best of both my gurus. I specialized in Abhinaya under 'Padma Bhushan' Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan.  Later I took Kuchipudi dance training under guru, Smt. Dr. Uma Rama Rao and did M.A. in   Kuchipudi.


SONGSOPTOK: What advice would you offer to someone just new to this field?

JAYANTHI: First I would say, be honest with yourself about your desires and abilities, and trust those people who give you honest feedback. Trust people that are experienced and who know dance. Just   remember that there are going to be moments of incredible joys, highs and outstandin  applause for great performance moments;. But there will also be disappointments and devastating losses of opportunity. You have to take it all in stride. If you want to be a dancer then you have to follow your heart and be a dancer. Be patient and never forget that passion you have for dance.  So many dancers have certain expectations, and when they don’t achieve, frustration sets in and the passion can get lost. Also, always have another vocation to help with the financial side of things. You can make a lot of money dancing, but it takes time, so prepare yourself to be patient and not give up dancing because of financial problems.
         
Second – the Important Qualities a Dancer must possess: Athleticism, Creativity, Persistence, Physical Stamina, Discipline, Be humble and above all Be Respectful and have regards for all  Gurus.


SONGSOPTOK: What are some of the common errors or misconceptions people have about dance as a career choice?

JAYANTHI: Common misconceptions I've heard throughout my dance career:
- Dance is only for women.
- It’s “not a real job”
- Dance is easy – does not require much effort - "I could do that" 

Dance does not discriminate based on gender, race, sexuality, or anything, for that matter. Dance is an art form for people who feel things on a higher level. It's for people whose sense of emotion is heightened as well as their awareness of their body. Dance is a full body workout as well as an intense cardio workout. Dance is as intellectual as it is physical. To be a dancer, you must have the mental strength to push through any amount of pain for the sake of art. Dance is easy – does not require much effort - "I could do that" - Whenever I hear non dancers say this, I laugh. Dancers are usually supposed to make choreography look easy, unless otherwise instructed by the choreographer. The next time you think "I could do that," while watching a dancer at work, trust me - You probably can't. Genius is Simplicity. You're either born with passion for movement, creativity and emotion in motion, or you aren't. You can be taught how to dance, but you can't be taught how to be a dancer. I've come across a lot of skeptics and a lot of supportive people too!


SONGSOPTOK: How would you describe your typical work week?

JAYANTHI: I teach dance and music 5 days a week at my dance studio in Cincinnati, OH. The name of my institute is Asian Arts Heritage, Inc. I also conduct classes through Face Time for students living in Boston, Florida and Virginia.


SONGSOPTOK: How many hours do you set aside for your own practice, stage show rehearsals, and choreography and costume selection?

JAYANTHI: Weekends are devoted to choreographing for upcoming performance events as and when they are scheduled as well as for my own performance preparation. My practice sessions are typically for 4 hours every other day, for stage show rehearsals, Choreography and costume selection takes up 2 to 3 weeks.


SONGSOPTOK: Is there anything you strongly like or dislike about your dance career?

JAYANTHI: The art of dance is hard work and it takes true motivation to make it in the dance world.  I love dance, dream dance. Dance keeps me motivated, energized, fresh and happy. Dancing can be an excellent way to release stress, tension, and express oneself in a whole new way. Being personable and friendly, being willing to meet people, taking interest in other artists' work, supporting the projects of others, collaborating and enjoying and sharing what I do with the community allow for the possibilities of growing and making connections with others. I thank God for rewarding me opportunities throughout my career. Most all professionals have parts of their job that they like or dislike. However, being a dancer as one’s profession has several downsides that take a huge toll on a person. The expenses of a dancer’s lifestyle add up due to many necessary items that a dancer requires.  Unless the dancer makes a break and has a steady job, she will not be able to pay for the countless amounts of dance jewelries, costumes, and training.  Just to say out loud “I dance for a living” is awesome. Also, with teaching and creating projects, it is amazing to see people achieve what they want and enjoy the sense of movement.  I would not be at peace with my life if dance did not exist in it.  To create this for others is most satisfying.  I would say that sometimes constant traveling can be grueling. Most of the time, I end up teaching discipline and rules instead of dance. I feel that this is the responsibility of the parents/guardians, so it can be frustrating as a few students make it difficult for the full class. With that said, my motto is: “A good teacher teaches what they want.  A great teacher teaches what is necessary.” Be prepared and remember that dance career is not just a job but a life style!


SONGSOPTOK: Should there be any age limit for beginners in dance? If you have adult students, can you tell us what they expect to gain from their lessons?

JAYANTHI: 4 years old is an Ideal age for beginners in dance. Learning has no age, no limits!! All one needs is some inspiration, passion and zeal. My adult dance students expect that learning dance will keep both the body and the brain active which is vital for people of every age. They also aim for flexibility, strength and to keep muscles and joints healthy, improving their posture and gaining balance. Through dance activity they meet new people and make friends with people who have similar interests. Taking time out in the day to partake in dance lessons helps them to reduce stress level in a big way! They get insight into other cultures, either through the dance style itself or meeting new people, new career opportunities or build vital communications skills needed in every profession. Participating in dance also elevates self-esteem and confidence through mastering new skills. All my adult students (non–Indians) enjoy the dance class because Dance offers a creative outlet for them to express their personalities, joy, in a safe environment.


SONGSOPTOK: Dance has the ability to offer its participants and spectators a religious experience. Do you agree? If so tell us how and why? What do you think about antagonism to dance in some religions?

JAYANTHI:     Dance has certainly been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment even before the birth of the earliest human civilizations. Dance is present in mythology and religion globally.

       Dance is a means of connecting to the Sacred. God loves when we dance. As per our Shastra, entire Universe is brought into existence as the manifestation of dance by the Supreme Dancer, Nataraja. 23 celestial beings called Apsara; danced to please the gods and express the supreme truths in the magic of movement.

       In Hinduism dance used to be a part of a sacred temple ritual, especially in Southern and Eastern India, where the female priestess’s devadasi's worshiped different aspects of the Divine through an elaborate language of mime and gestures. Natyashastra is the most ancient and the most elaborate scripture describing every element and aspect of this sacred art-worship. The temple dance gradually evolved into what is known today as BharataNatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi Dance that still preserves many ritualistic elements of Hinduism.

       The power of dance in religious practice lies in its multisensory, emotional, and symbolic capacity to create moods and a sense of situation in attention-riveting patterns by framing, prolonging, or discontinuing communication. Dance is a vehicle that incorporates inchoate ideas in visible human form and modifies inner experience as well as social action. The efficacy of dance in contributing to the construction of a worldview and affecting human behavior depends upon the beliefs of the participants (performers and spectators), particularly their faith in their ability to affect the world around them.

       Dance is an expression of joyous spirituality. I do it as something that helps my mood. It helps my spirit. It uplifts me… Even when we are alone, we are in company of a greater spirit. And when we dance, we embody that greater spirit inside ourselves.


SONGSOPTOK: Do you agree that a dancer can convey intangible emotional experiences as strongly as verbal communications? Do you agree/disagree that dance can lead to altered states of consciousness?

JAYANTHI: Communication is a complex area of study, a field that encapsulates the multitude ways that humans interact with the world and, more specifically, with other humans. Humans communicate through two main behavioral streams manifested through verbal/linguistic forms, such as speech and text, and nonverbal forms, such as body language and facial expression. In order to become communicative, these verbal or non-verbal behavior must be observed by and elicit a response from someone else. In other words either consciously or subconsciously behavior must be heard, seen or felt by the receiver, and be followed by an exchange of thought or action. Dance communicates ideas, stories, emotions, and moods, much like prose and poetry. Literature often inspires dance, and dance in turn inspires literature. My take is that, often times the dance performance does not elicit an immediate and observable physical or verbal response, due to the nature of the conventions of the performance venue. It is largely after the experience, when the overall impact of the dance production can be processed, that the        residue, the feelings and thoughts are expressed, by way of conversational discussion, body/facial expression and overall mood. Non-verbal codification is undoubtedly significant to human communication processes, often used instinctively and unconsciously in emotional response situations to communicate instantly   and powerfully.


SONGSOPTOK: Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration. (Rudolf Nureyev) Do you agree with this quote? 

JAYANTHI: I agree with this quote because an artist employs the technical knowledge, skill dexterity and          concentration to express the forms of an artistic discipline. Technique refers to the proficiency by which the artist executes the forms and performances. Technique prepares the artist for surmounting any arising technical problems that may hinder compositional completion. In short, Technique is the bridge between artistic conception and its physical materialization.



PHANE JAYANTHI SEN currently living in Cincinnati,  performs innovative yet traditional dance works in major dance festivals in USA, India, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Budapest, Vienna, and Paris and at numerous other stages. Founded Asian Arts Heritage Inc., as Artistic Director and Choreographer, She pursues a career as a dance therapist, movement explorer, educator and performer. She is a member of International Dance Council - CID, UNESCO Paris, France and member of The Ohio Arts Council, USA.

Graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, Bachelor Degree in Early Child Education and Masters in Fine Arts - MFA (Indian Classical Dances, Kuchipudi and BharataNatyam.


Received accolades at International dance festivals as an excellent dance performer and a knowledgeable dance instructor. Received many distinguished awards and citations in recognitions for her contribution to arts.  She was awarded scholarship from the Ministry of Human Resources Development for BharataNatyam. She’s been conferred with titles of “Shringarmani” an award given for artistic excellence at Kal Ke Kalakaar, Mumbai 1988, and “Natya Mayuri” Hyderabad, 1991.


As a Cultural ambassador of India’s rich performing arts heritage, she has traversed the globe, spreading the message of global harmony through dance movements and melodies. She has performed extensively in Major Festivals worldwide. Using the teachings of my renowned Gurus and learnings from her performing experience, and has added her own flavor, flair and finesse in every item she performs.

While staying true to the definitions of dance in Natya Shastra, she welcomes novel ideas, innovation, when choreographing expressions and movements to some truly unique and challenging music in various global languages. Her instruction emphasizes the value of an immaculate dance form. As a result, her exclusive dance compositions bring her world-wide commendation.

***THE INTERVIEW WAS TAKEN BY RIMI PATI

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.

 (Songsoptok)

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