RADHE JAGGI The Quest of A Dancer
Danseuse Radhe Jaggi revisits how she found her passion in dance and how her mind, body and soul were intertwined, ever since she found her calling
There is a nonchalant aura and prodigiousness beyond her age, when young danseuse Radhe Jaggi, daughter of Sadhguru, starts conversing. She exudes a charm of being seamlessly grounded, probably having imbibed life lessons from her own father or being nurtured under the canopy of mindfulness and pursuit of contentment. Clad in a white salwar with a red dupatta and a bindi on her forehead, with her hair tied into a chignon, Radhe gives us a taste of her tryst with dance, deep-rooted love for the indigenous weaves of India, the recitals that left a strong imprint in her mind and more.
THE DANCE ITINERARY
Radhe goes on to revisit how she found her passion in dance and how her mind, body and soul were intertwined, ever since she tapped into her calling. She started dancing at the young age of nine, however, she says the seriousness with which she delves into dance today did not come at that age and saw it as just another extra-curricular activity. And in addition to dance, she also learnt a little bit of music and mridangam. Any outdoor activity was thrown at her and she jumped right in as child. That explains her interest in athletics, and her experiences as a long distance runner. She says, “I enjoyed dance, however, to be precise, it was not my early passion. Given that most dance forms are taught under a formal system, I did not have a sense of clarity if I was built for the same at that age.”
After completing Class 10, Radhe did not feel the urge to go back to school for many reasons though she conformed to the formalities and requirements in a school. “I did not feel a structured school system was contributing to me substantially. My father also agreed with the same.”
A visit to Kalakshetra in Chennai, when she was 16 years old, changed her vision for life and steered clear of all apprehensions and uncertainties, she says. “I instantly fell in love with the space, from the trees, ambience to everything surrounding it, and it was surreal. That was also the first time I met Leela Samson, renowned bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer, who at that time was its director. I had not met someone like her as an artiste, who was able to very clearly put into words why she was passionate about bharatanatyam. She spoke about it not as a means of performance but as a personal vocation. That struck a chord with me.” That day, like an epiphany of sorts, she decided that it was the place she wanted to be.” Radhe further elaborates, “I was in Kalakshetra for four years, and like everyone there, I equipped myself with insights and skills, from the scratch, regardless of the years one has had training in dance.” Even after completing training there, her mind was still clouded, with different interests and the attempts on zeroing in on one was still persisting. And then she was driven by her first love – literature, following which she embarked on an altogether new journey. As she got herself enrolled for an arts management course for a year, she realised physically, how her body started missing dance. She says, “I was longing to dance. That’s when things really changed for me and the realisation that I really loved dance as a language and an expression dawned upon me.”
She opines that while most dancers unravel their passion at a very young age, she came to a clear understanding at a later stage. However, she sees it as what makes the entire process special, having made the decision as an adult. Hence, she goes on to say that she shares a more mature relationship with dance as an art form.
Ask her whether she has found herself in moments of alchemy after delivering soul-stirring performances, and she says, “One shares a fluid and flexible relationship with dance like any other art form. You are always striving to be what you think is a good dancer and that is always escaping you. Most dancers feel that there are moments in time that you absolutely feel in sync with your art form and the rest of the time, you are on quest for those moments. There were moments from my performances when it felt like something larger.”
That said, dance being a physical art form, your body constantly reminds you that this is your instrument, according to her. If you don’t keep it in the best way possible, despite having fancy ideas of what kind of an artiste you are and if you don’t keep your mind and body completely focused about what and how you are trying to do, it becomes a futile effort. She explains, “You have to methodically go through that process through constant rehearsals. If not, it will intermittently reflect that you are not quite there yet. At the same time, it is times when you really push yourselves, after witnessing exhaustion and frustration that something higher comes on-stage. It is those times that you forget yourselves because you have pushed your mind and body to the maximum extent possible.”
She envisions that she moves her audience as she was enthralled by the performances of stalwarts as one among the viewers. Radhe says, “I have been brought to tears many times. I wish to translate the same experience to my audience as well.”
SONGS OF EXPERIENCE
Radhe gives a vivid picture of her first performance, which left her in a state of ecstasy. She says, “It happened at the ashram, in front of the Devi temple, and as I was getting to the thillana portion. As it was my last piece of my first performance, I remember I was tired, and suddenly it started pouring. I remember clearly from that split second that nobody from the audience even flinched despite the rains. With a grin on my face, I continued to dance. I will never forget that moment.”
She cites another moment when she was in Bhopal for a performance. Unlike her other renditions until then, she didn’t know anybody in the audience other than the musicians on-stage. She says, “For the first time, I took charge of the stage when compared to my previous performances, where I was acclimatised with the crowd, making me conscious that I should look a certain way. However, for a moment that day, I felt ‘This is my stage and I can do what I want’. From that day, the way I looked at a performance changed completely.”
The pandemic has thrown open a splurge of anxieties, doubts and insecurities, and to find the muse during hard times as this has been daunting for many. However, Radhe dismisses the need to find one, and says, “Inspiration is a luxury. Discipline is something you have to always fall back on. Dedicating your mind towards attaining it and just doing your work becomes an inspiration in its own sense.”
She points out saying for any artiste, there is no particular moment when there would be an outpour of emotions. That said, she says inspiration is a huge boon, though it comes in spurts. “However, discipline is something you make a return to most of the time. And you have to remind yourself that this is what you love to do.”
Like anyone aspiring for perfection, artistes too might not feel like dancing on certain days. The going might get tough too, she says and that is completely alright. She says, “Those are the days when you go back and do old pieces. A lot of times, inspiration comes from revisiting something quite familiar. You start rediscovering the beauty of one transition, from one pose to another.” Inspiration does not always have to come in the form of an outward force. It is something one has to create for him or her, Radhe quickly points out.
MARRYING DANCE AND SPIRITUALITY
Radhe throws light on the fact that there is no denying the truth that dance and spirituality go hand in hand. She says, “Our entire culture and ethos, the way we sit and we exchange gestures, all of it contribute to creating something quite larger. Our classical arts, especially dance and music, come from that, and makes up for the source of our arts. Art was developed in those kinds of spaces where people were conscious of what they wanted to express. Moreover, there were great devotees, inspired to express what they felt within themselves.”
She goes on to add, “Today, I think when people see it as a performative art, they find it relatively easy to split the two. However for me, it is one and the same. I want to make whatever I do a part of my spiritual seeking and sadhana. This includes my dance.”
PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Ask her if totality in a performance depend on a performer’s personal journey, and she says, “I think dance has more and more become about expressing your personal journey or feeling. I have a different perspective about it, as I want to be whoever I need to be in that moment. And it could probably an expression of who I am. If a particular piece requires a certain kind of character or perspective that I do not share, I have to completely immerse myself on that experience.
Radhe explains, “It is important that when I take up that role, it is convincing for the viewer, and for me to be comfortable in any perspective I am trying to portray. In that moment, I have chosen to be that person, and I want to be same in the best way possible.”
BEING MYSTIC’S DAUGHTER
One wonders if the young dancer was ever bogged down by the immense pressure or expectation often imposed by being the child of a renowned personality. She says, “People might have such expectations of me, but I was never brought up that way. And Sadhguru too never expected me to be a certain way or act accordingly because I am his daughter. I realise now as an adult that it is a huge blessing. I didn’t notice it when I was younger, and I have to behave a certain way because of that.”
She says she was overwhelmed, when people treated her with warm reception because of their strong association with her father. She says, “When I go places and meet people, they show great affection and respect and are always welcoming. I see it as a privilege. It is purely because I am Sadhguru’s daughter that I have been treated to the same. I am truly grateful for that. Wherever I have gone and stayed, I have been immediately included as part of their family. I often say I grew up in many people’s homes, as my father would be taking classes back then. Even today, I am not a guest for most people.”
THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
Sadhguru’s sayings about the importance of how one responds to tough situations reverberates within Radhe’s ideologies in life as well. She says, “Huge part of spiritual growth comes from one’s response. I think a lot of it comes from my dance as well as you learn to express different emotions and learn to look into the nuances of the same. Even if I am not angry today, if I have to portray the emotion on-stage, I have to convincingly do it. So you explore all these possibilities. The interesting thing in bharatanatyam is that one piece can be done from different perspectives. When you are practicing dance or learning it, you do it in all these emotions.
She says, “That has helped me in life, because I know I can create emotions whichever way I want to on-stage. So why not apply the same in real life.”
Radhe seems effortlessly in love with wearing saris, especially the indigenous weaves. She says she was inclined towards it at the age of 16 itself. “I was immediately comfortable in a sari. I know many younger people struggle wearing or moving around in a sari. It was never a struggle, though it took a while for me to learn how to wear it in the way I like to. I also fell in love with the umpteen number of weaves and fabrics available in the country, where multiple means have been explored. And this exploration has been in the form of an art form, not as an accessory.”
Making it a part of her everyday life opened her eyes to impressive and beautiful saris that many around were wearing. She says, “The way the fabric feels on the body in this weather, ambience and the work that I do, is something special and easy to be draped. It comes from a place of comfort and fascination for the weaves of the country.”
A conversation with Radhe Jaggi, without touching upon Project Samskriti, something that gets her excited, is incomplete. She says, “Sadhguru had recently launched the project, which is a means to offer aspects of Indian culture to everybody. The children, for whom this project was created, have all grown up in the ashram, as part of Isha Samskriti, through an alternate education system. It is right now an online initiative, but it will be developed into a different means of offering access to Indian culture. We start with music, bharatanatyam and kalaripayattu classes. We are also building a performance wing.”
She goes on to say that Project Samskriti is an endeavour to nurture, preserve and showcase the magnificence of classical Indian arts as possibilities for transformation and inner growth at a time when these art forms are being practiced just as hobbies. Isha Samskriti advanced students and alumni, with years of rigorous training and an experiential understanding of the impact of the classical arts, will offer these programmes.
It will defy the notion that such art forms are only for the classically trained and imparts an idea that it could be adopted by anyone, who has a sensibility in the same. She concludes, “It is going to be a cohesive performance. It is my privilege to work with them over the last few months and help put together different modules of teaching. We started with the basics from all these for those people, who want to get a taste of the art forms and include it in their lives. I am very excited to see where it goes.”
For more information on Project Samskriti, visit ishaeu.org/ProjectSamskriti-BH
(Cover story On British Herald Magazine – Beth Cooper)