Video transcript
@The Arts Unit Art Bites – Indian dance – 02. Semiclassical part 1

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SHYAMIA ESWARAN: Namaste. My name is Shyarmia and I'm a featured dance choreographer for a School Spectacular in the style of Bollywood. But did you know that there are lots of other styles of Indian dance, and we're going to try one today.

So, for this first part of the choreography, we're going to be doing a style called semi-classical. Semi-classical simply means that we do not have to adhere to the strict rules of classical Indian dance, which is actually a form of worship. Instead, we're going to be taking elements of that dance form and mixing it in with some other styles and movements.

Before we do any sort of classical Indian dancing, we should always start with a namaskaram. A namaskaram is a show of gratitude and a blessing. Bless me while I dance and thank you.

So, we start with our a hands up, and we take a step forward with our right foot. 1, step, 2. Give thanks for the gift of your life. Now I want you to plie all the way down. Come to your head to your heart. You're giving thanks for your teachers, your gurus, who have been passing on their knowledge to you.

You'll touch the earth, bring it to your eyes because when we dance we must connect with the earth and we're always stamping all over her poor face. And then as we come up, we can also thank our audience or the musicians in the case of classical Indian dance that we'll be playing live with us. Let's try it one more time.

1, 2. Sky, head, heart, earth, eyes. here come up and thank you. Beautiful.

I'd like to introduce you to some basic Indian hand gestures known as mudras.

[music - Raghav, 'Let's work it out']

(RAPPING/SINGING) We gotta quit overreacting. Imagine just last night we're romancing.

Mudras and hand gestures are used to storytell throughout the dance. And the two that are very useful are Katakamukha and Alapadma. Katakamukha simply means the opening in a bracelet. For example, this little opening here. You make it by putting your three fingers together, like you were pinching the cute cheeks of a baby, and stretching, really stretching your fingers.

It's important that you also maintain your posture. Press your shoulders down. Engage your shoulder blades to bring your arms back and have energy flowing through your hands, right like this.

The next is Alapadma. Alapadma means lotus flower. So, you take your arms out and from flat palms you bring your hands like this. So, you stretch from your pinky towards yourself. No bends in your fingers, absolutely outstretched, because you want your fingers to represent the beautiful petals of a lotus flower.

Say it with me - Alamadma, Katakamukha Mudra. Great job. If your fingers are burning, that means you're doing it right. Whew.

[music - Raghav, 'Let's work it out']

(RAPPING/SINGING) Let's work it out. I'm not letting go. Yeah, girl, that's for sure. Won't catch me walking out. So, OK, let's work it out.

I'm not letting go. Yeah, girl, that's for sure. Won't catch me walking out. Let's work it out. Let's work it out.

Once again, here we go through that old procedure. You screaming it's over between us, but I don't believe ya. You're such a diva, a drama queen.

Hey girl, why you blowing up like a Osama's been. What you want, an argument? What language you speaking? We've come too far now, and I ain't leaving.

If we got a problem, let's get on top of it. We ain't got to split. We can conquer it.

But we got to quit over reacting. Imagine just last night we're romancing. First passion, now we be clashing.

I know what's happening. You're throwing a tantrum. As a man, I'm making the first move. You know I never do nothing to blatantly hurt you, but we got a situation to work through. But peace is a virtue and baby it takes two.

So, I'm not letting go. Yeah, girl, that's for sure. I ain't letting you go. Won't catch me walking out. So, OK, let's work it out.

I'm not letting go. Yeah, girl, that's for sure. You won't catch me walking out. So OK, let's work it out.

I'm not letting go. Yeah, girl, that's for sure. You won't catch me walking out. So OK, let's work it out.

This is a bit of a challenging choreography, because we have to coordinate our fingers, our eyes. But I will always give you options so that you can dance to your level.

To make it easy, we're going to start with our hands in prayer position, with our eyes down. But you want to keep your energy and you don't want to collapse your frame. There's this, and then there's this. My back is completely straight with energy. I imagine energy shooting out the top of my head, all the way through my tailbone to the ground to connect me and keep me nice and strong in my posture.

So, on 5, 6, 7, 8, we're going to raise our eyes very dramatically. 5, 6, 7, 8. Now, with your right foot you're going to jump onto your right foot - and 1.

Your left hand is going to become Katakamukha. Your right hand is going to keep your prayer and push like this. So, it will look like this - and 1, 2, 3, 4. Very good.

Then we're going to walk around. So, we go - I'm just going to take a step back. And 1, 2, 3, 4, you look at your hand.

Now you step with your right foot and you're going to make a semicircle to end up on the other side, completely mirrored. Step your right foot and walk in a semicircle. And try and make it as wide as you can with the space you have - 5, 6, end facing the front.

On your 7 and 8, you're going to bring this arm in. Swing it in, back to here. So, without me flipping, it goes like this. 5, 6, 7, 8, and 1, 2, 3, 4, walk, right, left, run in. That's it.

Now I'm doing Indian style walks here, which can be a little bit tricky. So, for now just walk, leading with your heel. 5, 6, and then a little scurry - 7, 8.

[music -, 'Indian desert']

We are going to then take these hands and transform it into, you guessed it, Alapadma. So, the arm, think ballet, it's going to go down, all the way around until it reaches the top of your head. If at any point the fingers are becoming too much for you, simply remove them.

Another very valid and very useful Indian position is Pataka. Pataka simply means flag, and you make it by squeezing your fingers together. Lots of energy. So, if any of the fingers are too much for you right now, just use Pataka until you're ready to add that level of detail.

We're here, and we go. As your hand comes down and around, your left foot goes down, and then eventually places behind. So, we go from here, 7, 8, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. This hand becomes Alapadma, 6. Now we're going to spin to our left, and come back together.

[music -, 'Indian desert']

Let's try that all together. This is a very dramatic introduction, so you want to be sure to really have your eyes focused and make your eye contact very distinct. Let's try it.

Eyes up, 5, 6, 7, 8, and hit it. On 3, 4, walk 5, 6, arm comes in, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Now spin to your left, 7, 8. Good job.

Start slow. Don't worry about the music and layer your movements. Start with the feet and the bottom half, then add the arms, then the fingers, and finally your expressions in your face.

[music -, 'Indian desert']

Please do stay tuned, because the fun part is coming next. Thank you for having me. Dhanyavaad and shukriya.

[music -, 'Indian desert']

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