A Beautiful Mind

  • Meenu Thakur Sankalp
  • India
  • Jun 05, 2015

Even for an experienced Classical dancer it is natural to have a bout of self-doubt. One morning I asked myself if Classical dance was basically an outcome of one’s psychomotor skills, which involve the ‘making’ of intricate facial expressions - including the roving of the eyeballs, manipulation of eyebrows, twitching and contouring of the mouth and cheeks (to depict sorrow, joy, anger, despair or desolateness). Or was it my hands and slender fingers - clapping, clasping, cupping and clipping - that did the trick. I had heard from my contemporaries that one of the legendary gurus of Classical dance focused solely on his feet. The audience could never take its eyes off those feet, as they delicately caressed the stage and skimmed the floor effortlessly. The craning of the neck, and the bending and stretching of the torso - all in one motion - has also been the highlight of every Classical dance. Did all these physical attributes, together, form the nucleus of Classical dance? I realised, after reading a bit, that Dance, being  a  microcosm of creative art, a parallel could be drawn to other art fields - like Western musis and, believe it or not, Mathematical-Economics. John Nash Forbes Jr., the Nobel Prize winning Mathematician-Economist respected for his contribution to ‘Game Theory’, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and yet had it all figured out in his beautiful mind (his life has been portrayed in an Oscar-winning film, ‘The Beautiful Mind’). World War II era Jewish Polish pianist Wladyslav Szpilman, hiding in a Warsaw attic (as he was being hounded by the Nazis), would magically move his fingers in the air - the music being clearly heard by his beautiful mind. I wondered if, similarly, the nucleus of Dance might actually be within a Dancer’s ‘beautiful mind’. I decided to put this to the test. I sat down upright, took a deep breath and closed my eyes in meditation. Strangely, as I visualised myself dancing, I began to feel a musical piece playing in the background. It was a most powerful realisation of the power of the mind, which meant that, even in Dance, intellect and understanding seemed to tower over physical attributes or ‘motions’. As I rose from the floor I tried to relate this premise with my ‘good’ and ‘bad’ performances. I soon realised its truth. I now teach my students that Classical dance can be ‘performed’ inside the mind. The ‘meditative dance’ with my ‘beautiful mind’ was perhaps the best performance of my dancing career!

The writer is a renowned Kuchipudi danseuse and choreographer



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