Video transcript
Indian dance – 03. Semiclassical part 2

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[music playing]

SHYAMLA ESWARAN: Namaste. My name is Shyamla, and I'm a featured dance choreographer for 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. 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. We're going to be taking a classic song called 'Chaiyya Chaiyya,' and I'm going to show you how to actually storytell using Indian traditional gestures, however, this is a bit of a challenge in 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. You don't need a lot of space, but you do have to be mindful because with Indian dance, we do move our arms out and in, so you need about, let's say to be safe, two metres by one metre.

Are you ready to try something new? Let's go.

[music playing]

[non-english singing]

[vocalising]

(SINGING) So, you had another date, another fight. You break down and cry, and you swear that it's over. It seems you pack your bags every night, girl, I know inside we could be so much more. But every time I saw this thing go wrong, girl you're out the door.

You don't want to deal with this pain anymore. Don't you understand that some things won't come easy in life. Work with me girl. It'll just take some time. I'm not letting go, yeah, girl, that's for sure. Won't catch me walking out, so OK, let's work it out.

Not letting go, yeah, girl, that's for sure. Won't catch me walking out, so OK, let's work it out.

[non-english singing]

At every single bar you turn around, say I've let you down, that I no longer know you. How could you say to me that I've lost my way when you're walking away, and I'm through.

But everytime the smallest thing goes wrong, girl, you're out the door. You don't want to deal with this pain anymore. Don't you understand some things won't come easy in life. Work with me, girl. It'll just take some time. I'm not letting go, yeah, girl, that's for sure. Won't catch me walking out, so OK, let's work it out.

Not letting go, yeah, girl, that's for sure. Won't catch me walking out, so OK, let's work it out.

Before we do any sort of classical Indian dancing, we should always start with a namaskaram. 1, 2, sky, head, heart, earth, eyes, here, come up, and thank you. It's important that you know what the lyrics mean, and I'm going to explain them to you. That friend who is like a fragrance whose language is like Urdu. Urdu is an ancient Indian language, a very beautiful ancient Indian language.

She is my evening, my night, my whole universe. That friend of mine is my beloved. So, when we dance using our Katakamukha and Alapadma all our gestures, we are basically telling that story. So, let's try it.

The first line. That friend who is like a fragrance, so we're going to pick and smell a flower. Goes like this. Feet first, and even when we're working on the feet, keep working on that straight, beautiful posture. Think ballet, think contemporary. You've got to keep your form.

We go with our feet. 1 and 2. Leave your weight on your right leg. Now, transfer it, bringing your leg up and then behind your left, and 3. Now, and 4 is to the corner, and 4. That's it. Hands separately.

Now, we go. Left hand goes on to your waist. You're showing that friend, so you want to just show it also with your face. That friend. So, this hand comes down from here, you're going to pick a flower. When you pick your flower, this hand is going to come to here, you're going to smell it, and then put it down, then show your flower.

Recognise those hands? We're just using a combination of Katakamukha and Alapadma. Let's try it with the feet. Now, this is a little bit complicated because there are lots of moving parts. So, just take your time with each section. Don't rush it. Try and pick up the intricacy.

If the fingers aren't happening, just use Kataka. So, we go 1 and 2. So, your 2 is picking your flower. As your 2 happens, this hand comes from here to here. 2, smell it, and sniff. 3 and 4 and 4.

A little bit faster. 5, 6, 7, 8. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. You've got it. First line of storytelling done.

[music playing]

[non-english singing]

So, that friend who is like a fragrance, whose language is like Urdu, a beautiful ancient Indian language. So, we've just gone here. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. We finished here with our flower facing to the right corner. You're going to take your left hand. It's going to go like this. 5, 6, 7, 8. That's you writing in Urdu. Well done, you.

Now, your legs are going to go walk left, right, then heel with your weight in the right for you to write the script. As I said, elbows. Everything has to stay very upright. It looks like this. Whose language is like Urdu. And if you want an extra challenge like you need one, add the eyes too, OK?

So, from here, we go left foot, left hand, right foot, right hand, place to your left heel, bend into your supporting right leg, use your pinky as a quill, I guess, to write, and have you eyes look down and to the corner. Very good. Shall we try it from the top? Let's try it.

1 and 2 and 3 and 4. Walk left, right, heel, writing. Good job. This is not an easy choreography at all. Like I said, there are lots of moving parts. So, just maybe focus on just the legs for the first round. See if you can get back, and then try and add the arms.

[music playing]

[non-english singing]

We're ready for the next line, which is such a beautiful one, and it's saying that friend that we've just spoken about, she is my evening, she is my night, she is my whole universe. That friend of mine is my beloved. Aww.

OK, so I'm going to show you a gesture that we use using classical Indian dance to depict the mood, and it's a lot simpler, luckily, than Katakamukha and Alapadma. You simply make an L and you flip your palm towards you, and that is how we depict the moon. OK, feet first. So, you just finished writing, going to extend your left leg, maintain your weight in your right.

I'm going to take the hands out for now. So, you're going to go kick, left, right, left, kick, right, left, right, kick, left, right, left, kick, right, left, right, and you want to lean. Lean. Lean away from the leg that you're kicking.

Kick, 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3. Now, we're going to add our moon. To add the moon, again, without the feet. We're going to do this. We've just finished writing. We're going to go and 1, 2, 3. Just switch it.

And 1, 2, 3, and 1, 2, 3. We're going to do three of them. Here we go. Your moon goes to your corners. In Indian dance, we always work on the diagonals, so I want your attention in your eyes to go up to the corner and look up and over your moon, like you really are looking up at the moon in the sky.

So, your gaze needs to go beyond your fingers. Maybe use your fingers as a frame and aim to look through that frame. It does make a difference when you're performing. So, let's try it. We go and 1, 2, 3. As your leg kicks up, your hand extends. And 1, 2, 3, and 1, 2, 3.

Let's try and put it together with the line before. We finished with our flower, so we walk left, right, show your writing. Kick, left, right, left, kick, right, left, right, kick. Make sure you're maintaining your posture.

And 1, 2, 3, and 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3. Good. It doesn't look like a lot, but we are really working hard because we have to maintain your base and your posture, as well as working your brain as well. So, don't worry if you don't get it all at once. Like I said, pick one aspect, get that right first, and then keep adding another layer to it.

So, you do three sets of the moon, and then you've got to show us the whole universe. So, the moon goes starting with your left leg. Kick 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3, pony, pony. Now, on your pony, you're going to press up on your right foot, up, down, up, down, and your weight presses down in your left and up on your right, and it's important that you get that rhythm, because it's very continuous. It goes like this.

And 1 and 2 and 3 and around and around. So all I'm doing on my last one is I'm taking my hands to here, and I'm keeping my elbows there to show the whole universe like this. This is something we use in kuchipudi, which is the style of dancing that I learned.

So, universe like this. Whole universe. When you add it with the moon, it looks like this. And 1, and 2, and 3, and dip and around. So, all I'm doing is taking this around, I'm dipping to my right as I go around. This is what it looks like without turns. So, just try this a few times. Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down with the arms up, down.

Up, down, up, down. Keep your elbows up, up, down. Almost like you're flicking your plat out of the way as you go down around. You finish like this. And that's what we're going to do for today, because this is very complicated. Lots of little things moving.

[music playing]

[non-english singing]

And that is the end of that section, because then we move on to a very different style and vibe. That's when we start getting a little bit more funky. Shall we try it from the top without the music? Let's go. Starting like this. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 1, 2, 3, 4, walk 5, 6, 7, 8. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

We go 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 walk left, right heel, sit and write. Moon, 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3, kick, 1, 2, 3, and down and around. You got it. If you got that in one go with all those layers, you're doing incredibly well, but please do not feel disillusioned if you can't get it all happening at the same time. These dance moves are practised for hours and hours. Just the feet are practised for hours and hours, just the hands are practised for hours and hours.

Just the posture alone is practised for many hours. Ready to try it with music? Let's give it a go!

[music playing]

[non-english singing]

How did you go? I know it's a bit fast, but as I said, start slow, don't worry about the music, and later your movements. Start with the feet and the bottom half, then add the arms, then the fingers, and finally, your expressions in your face. Indian dance can be very complex, but once you take the time to appreciate it, you will understand so much more about how to actually express yourself and to tell stories through movement.

So, I'd like to thank you very much for allowing me to share a bit of my culture with you, and please do stay tuned, because the fun part is coming next. We've just gotten through the challenging part of the choreography. The next part we're going to get to do some tutting. We're also going to get to finally move our hips and upper body, but until then, thank you for having me. Dhanyavaad and shukriya.

[music playing]

[non-english singing]


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