Saiprasanna Bellur, an esteemed Bharatanatyam dancer, and disciple of Late Guru Smt Shyamala Murali Krishna, has added a new dimension to her love for the classical dance form. She’s combined her artistic and literary skills with her passion for dance and come up with a stellar Bharatanatyam workbook to add a zing to dance classes. We converse with her about the inspiration behind My Ta Dhi workbook, which can be purchased from http://mylittlebookshop.in.
It is interesting to observe how you’ve merged the passion for dance with your other passion of writing. Tell us what led to the idea of writing a workbook for students of Bharatanatyam?
I have been a student of dance from the age of five and interestingly most students of classical dance start learning at a young age. Despite this, very little has been done to engage children in a fun way when it comes to learning Indian classical dance, in general and Bharatanatyam specifically. Most dedicated teachers evince enthusiasm from their pupils in their own special way but they have to be able to battle their wits with far more engaging digital content that has usurped the imagination of our little ones.
I wanted to make a fun book that made it easy for a child to first of all pick up the book, hold it for long enough to know that dance has a lot many benefits and is not just an ancient piece of heritage. Children love colour and if math can become fun with colouring worksheets, then Bharatanatyam will definitely find a few takers if presented in an attractive, child- friendly way. I hope there will be of value to learning Indian classical dance with children because it is introduced like this to them.
I gauge that the book is written for teachers to be used in class with their students. Could parents use it independently as well, to introduce the dance to children?
Yes, absolutely yes. The book has the story of dance in colourful pictures and the illustrations are truly the cynosure of this children’s book. Parents will find it very simple to read out the story, teach basics of Dance theory and probably be surprised that their child wants to go to a dance class to learn. I have encountered little ones who enjoyed the workbook and asked their parents to enroll them in a Bharatanatyam class. Moreover, the book outlines the route map of lessons in a traditional Bharatanatyam class. It will be wonderful for parents to know what they can anticipate in their child’s dance class.
There is a fun interactive element with the colouring sheets as well as the quiz-type exercises. The book simultaneously gives the reader bite-sized information about the origins of the dance as well as other specific information. What are your tips for teachers/parents to get the most out of the book?
Parents can stay connected to the learnings in the Bharatanatyam class, even if they are themselves not initiated into the artform. You can read them the story or just sit back and colour a page with your child while sipping chocolate milk together; and guess what, you will both have learnt that Manipuri or Odissi are classical dances too or that Bharata Muni had a hundred children and so on.
There are a series of 4 workbooks planned, of which this is the first. Could you give more details about the rest, and how they would add on to the first one?
The next 3 books will be complementing My Ta Dhi Workbook 1, in the sense of addressing the syllabus for the Karnataka State Board Junior Examination for Bharatanatyam. This means that a student will learn intrinsic theory concepts through simple puzzles and illustrated worksheets without the usual dryness that is associated with archaic teaching practices.
As you can infer, the Workbooks will get progressively intense and informative but with the promise to keep the fun alive!
Could you share any feedback from readers who have already used the workbook?
Most certainly! My Ta Dhi Workbook 1 has received very generous acknowledgements from teachers, parents and its young audiences.
“Simple – Efficient – Bang on target! This workbook on Bharatanatyam demystifies the art and gets your feet dancing! Congratulations Sai Prasanna.”
— (Padmashri) GEETA CHANDRAN, Dancer/Choreographer
” My Ta Dhi Workbook is a very creative endeavour. It is simple and very useful for children who want to learn Bharatanatyam” – Smt.Poornima Ashok, Danseuse, Teacher Choreographer and Founder Director Nrityanjali School of Bharatanatya.
“My Ta Dhi Workbook is very simple and useful…. very easy to learn” – Smt Mrudula Rai, Founder Director Shree Natya Niketan, Coimbatore.
I think the book could also be a great keepsake for children! While the informative aspects form the core of the book, I think there is enough space to add on some scrapbooking-style elements by the readers and really personalize this book to preserve as a keepsake! What are your thoughts on that?
You have asked me something so wonderful! Yes, little children have actually doodled their own interpretations and made endearing bullet journals out of their personal My Ta Dhi Workbook copies. As someone who yearns to see more youngsters take, fondly, to the artform…I see this as a sure shot way for them to make Bharatanatyam their very own!
The Book can be purchased from http://mylittlebookshop.in