Sound Of Those Claps

Abstract, art maybe to the world. One cannot confine art into any boundaries of our limited vision. It is inspiring and has its own might of engrossing people into it.

As the very well known philosopher and metaphysician, Ananada puts it in words,

The artist is not a special kind.
of person; rather each person.
is special kind of an artist.
-Ananda Cooruswamy

I am very humbled to be an artist because I get to worship art. Initially, when I started to dance, I realized that a lot of hard work and effort was needed to master the art. I have had my fair share of lows but today when I look back at those days, struggling with my moves and my expressions, I realize I have come a long way.

When I performed for the first time on the stage with an audience of almost two hundred people staring right at me and the spotlights shining bright; my soul trembled and I couldn’t help but go blank. I couldn’t remember half the moves and it was a disaster. As I came to the dusk of my performance, having known that I didn’t do well, a frightening chill ran down my spine and I burst into tears. The audience clapped for me as I ran backstage and that made it even worse.

My Guru was standing there, waiting for me. I was too ashamed to look him in the eyes. He put his hand on my shoulder, like how only a father would, and said: ” These are the claps you get but these aren’t the ones you want.” I was sulking into a vague zone of shame and wasn’t in a situation to understand his words.
“You’ll eventually understand what that means.” He smiled and left.

This so-called first “performance” got etched in my memory but I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me.

As Henry Havelock Ellis has rightly said:

Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts. Because it is no mere translation or abstraction from life, it is life itself.
-Henry Havelock Ellis

I am my truest reflection and that’s what needed to come out in my dancing. I had to not just focus on the technicalities but I had to bare my soul on stage. And once that realization set in, there was no looking back. The process wasn’t easy, aching and sore muscles, blistered feet, sleepless nights became a way of life but none of that mattered once I had my ghunghroos on.

My belief in myself only grew stronger, and then when I stepped on the stage for the second time, I knew I was ready. Ready to pick up from where I had left last and take it to standards that I had only dreamed of, as I was in competition with no one but myself. There were jitters, oh yes. I was baffled by the numerous WHAT IFS that was going through my mind. But as the tinkle of THALLAM ( manjira) and the rhythmic beats of the MRIDANGAM fell onto my ears, the anxiousness gave way to a sudden high that only a dancer would know of.

As I did my last mudra, I could hear the audience clap and that brought tears to my eyes. The only difference was that this time, it gave me a sense of achievement and I could see that my audience was delighted. After all, the only way you can pay back an artist is by appreciating them.

After the performance, when I went to meet my Guru, I immediately expressed,”Today I understood what those words meant.” And he replied saying, “Never be satisfied with mere compensation. A true artist is always hungry, wild, and free. And these attributes alone should drive you to excel in ways that are both, untamed and unmatched.

A huge perk or as it may seem, the best thing about being a performing artist is the change in perspective with which people look at you. That changes you as a person from the inside to the outside. I feel elated when someone admires my work or takes me as an inspiration, and that makes me feel humbled. Through art, I can feel a connection with people and that is a good feeling.

I would like to close with a beautiful quote by the famous jazz musician, Twyla Tharp,

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.
-Twyla Tharp

Guess what, I’ve found my path to run away and you will too!

About Shilpa Daga

Shilpa is a jewellery designer by profession, an ardent reader and an amateur dancer, trained in Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi.

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