Divya Devaguptapu

Bharatanatyam Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher

Dance is my prayer, my meditation and… the best expression of myself.

The art form I have practiced for over two decades- Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form from South India. The complex vocabulary of this age-old tradition is composed of intricate foot-work and an expansive mimetic gestural language that lends itself beautifully to the most complex of rhythmic movements to the most subtle of human expressions. It is a solo act blossoming on stage to create myriads of movements, characters and expressions.

After initial training in Mumbai, my family moved to Chennai, the cultural Mecca of Indian Classical arts, so I could pursue advanced training under Guru V.P Dhananjayan. A reflection on my childhood fills me with memories of either going to class, attending dance shows across the city, rehearsing for my own shows or missing school to tour! For what started out as an afterschool activity to channel my energies, dance quickly became my defining factor.

I have always believed that dance and music have an inextricable link and one must always compliment the other. Thus, my artistic inspiration has always been a response to and conversation with the music and an in-depth exploration of the lyric to help me bring out the various shades of the character/theme, black, white and grey.

Stretching the boundaries of this form to promote it to today’s global audiences through deeper interpretations of mythology using metaphor, my goal is to make this spectacular art form mainstream conversation in the global world of dance without having it bracketed as an exotic eastern form. My work has always been deeply rooted in tradition and is a celebration of this classicism laced with a contemporary flair; to make Bharatanātyam more relevant, to myself, and my audience.

Over the years, dance has spoken to me at different levels. As a child, I never had a concrete reason for why I wanted to dance, but that it was the only thing I wanted to do. As I grew, with my art, every rehearsal/show revealed to me a different facet. The sheer beauty and vastness of the form, the dynamics of movement, of being one with myself during a performance, the high of being on stage and losing myself to something larger, are discoveries I made along the way. Above all, the one thing that has been constant through these various changes has been the spirituality of movement. Of living the highest of Indian philosophies, “aham bhrahmāsmi”, or “I am that Divinity”, or oneness, where the difference between the art and the artiste cease to exist. It happens not through performance but through immersion, assimilation and marinating in the art, for which we use the word “sādhana”, which is much more than practice, it is about being and living it.

Dance has made me stop and enjoy the moment. To breathe life into the stillness within each movement, to experience the joys of various emotions without being judgmental, and most of all, to be one – one with myself, one with the music, one with the movement and one with a higher spiritual force.

Dance is my prayer, my meditation and… the best expression of myself.

My work has always been deeply rooted in tradition and is a celebration of classicism laced with contemporary thought; to make Bharatanatyam more relevant, to myself, and my audience.