Kalakshetra literally means a holy place of arts: Kala, arts and Kshetra, Field or Holy Place. The name well describes the intention of classical dancer Rakmini Devi Arundale. This beautiful and accomplished visionary established the Kalakshetra Foundation in the early 20th century as an academy of arts. Located in Chennai, a huge and noisy city, Kalakshetra is a beautiful, serene, quiet, and spiritual place.
Young women and men from all over the world come here to study classical Indian dance, music (vocal and instrumental), painting, sculpture, block printing, and other fine arts and crafts. After school classes are offered to children as young as 7, three days a week. Many students live on site in hostels during their years of study. Many of the teachers are former students who want to pass their experience on to a new generation.
We were not allowed to take photographs, but you can take a look here. We were allowed to walk around the grounds and watch dancers or musicians hone their craft. Bamboo shades were rolled up so doors and windows were simply large openings all around each classroom. We were captivated by the students’ precision, energy, and concentration. Every gesture, every facial expression, and every musical pattern help tell the story.
One of my favorite spots kept me rooted where I could hear three music classes simultaneously. Birds joined the chorus and leaves drifted down in a gentle breeze not far from the sea.
Later, I read from Some Selected Speeches and Writings of Rukmini Devi Arundale and recorded some interesting quotes from volume 1:
There is no such thing as “seeing” art. Art is a creative force of the response from within . . . (p. 113)
What does drama do to a person? It takes the very essence of life and puts it before the audience and so enables one to understand life far better. In drama you not only see something, apart from yourself, but you actually see yourself on stage (p. 23).
Rukmini Devi writes about four specific techniques of dance: posture of the body and gesture; spoken word; costume; and the expression of emotion in the body, e.g. change of colour, broken speech, horripulation [isn’t that a delicious word?], and shedding of tears. (from the introduction)
My favorite quote, p. 183:
To compose Kumara Sambhawa took 6 years of meditation and 11 days of composition.
Meditate on that! And tell me, how do you express your creativity?