Art has found human form in Geeta Chandran. Not only an accomplished danseuse, she is also a vocalist, author, choreographer, teacher, presenter, actor and activist. In a conversation with SEEMA, she describes her deep involvement with the performing arts.
Born into a rather conservative family, studies were always given most importance – including in the arts, learning both Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music that began when Chandran was just five years old. Being focused, she earned good grades and went on to graduate with a degree statistics from the Lady Shri Ram College, part of Delhi University. She also armed herself with a master’s degree in communications at the Indian Institute of Mass Communications.
“Through all this, dance was my preferred medium of expression and path to joy and fulfillment. When I finally embraced Bharatanatyam as my full-time passion-driven endeavor, I found my joyous space within,” she said.
Her first dance guru was Swarna Saraswathi, who inspired her to embrace Bharatanatyam. Her philosophical approach to the dance and its aesthetics – of how body and mind intertwined as an inseparable whole – made Chandran consider beauty at several levels. With five decades of dancing experience, she says dance is part of her life.
“It is my medium of communication,” she says. “Whether it be rhythms, expression/abhinaya or Natyam/storytelling, it is all second nature to me. I truly know nothing else and the way I learned dance was knowing of the secret merging of music and dance. To me they are not ever different baskets. They are one weave, a single tapestry.”
Chandran has done stints on television, video and film, theater, choreography, dance education, dance activism and dance-related journalism.
“Being trained both in Bharatanatyam and communications,” she says. “I embraced different mediums to express my dance and its problems and related issues. I write openly and boldly on things that matter to me as an artist, and issues that affect the dance community. My social media interactions are also around issues of concern. I have worked extensively in promoting dance and music on television, anchoring several shows over the decades.”
In films, Chandran’s best memory of acting is her role as a senior devadasi dancer in the international film “Vara.” She is the founder-president of Natya Vriksha, the cultural organization that she founded in 1991. As the artistic director of the Natya Vriksha Dance Company, she also choreographs dance pieces.
As she put it, “I bring in issues of contemporary concern to the collective’s creations, like gender justice, female feticide, challenging notions of stigma, environment and climate action, the anti-war movement, and the plea for tolerance and inclusion. In our society are some of the values that we have explored through our choreographic works.”
Chandran says the award she has won only bring an additional burden of responsibility.
“Receiving the Padma Shri when I was just 45 years old only made me go from working 18 hours a day to making dance my 24/7 passion. I was honored to be bestowed the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award since it is a recognition by peers. Similarly, I am excited to receive ABHAI’s “Nritya Perunjoti” award, which is coming up in June. But honestly, awards do not reflect a person’s true worth, only one’s work can do that.”
Chandran has written “So Many Journeys,” her book based on volumes of scribbles and memory scraps compiled to reflect her dance conscience. But she is unsure if she has another book on the cards.
“Books are a luxury now. Today’s world needs blogs and Insta Reels. The world of communication has changed so dramatically,” she says. “My future is set, I am all geared to en-dance the universe.”
If you are wondering what that means, well, it is when engages in a strategic range of dance-related activities – performing, teaching, conducting, singing, collaborating, organizing, writing, using social media, and motivating a wide variety of youth audiences.