…or, rather, I spent about 20 minutes doing that and most of the day getting ready for it.
But that long stretch of getting ready is an experience itself. There is the surrealism of transformation, because everyone ends up looking so different from their usual selves. But also, there’s something in the fact that there’s no way to get it all done without helping and being helped by a lot of people. And “help” goes beyond tying things or pinning things or putting things on.
One moment stands out to me: I was pretty much done getting ready when I noticed a little girl wandering about, looking quite sad. So I brought her over to her mother (who was helping out with hairstyling), and after a quick exchange in Malayalam the girl leapt up excitedly and ran out of the room. Her mother explained, “I asked her if she wants to take a picture with you.” Laughing, I followed the girl and found she’d already co-opted someone to operate the camera.
I don’t know whether she was fascinated by the dancers or just wanted the attention or what – but she really seemed to enjoy our little photo session, asking me to hold different poses and trying a few herself. It was totally endearing for me, and a reminder that I stick with Indian classical dance for the warm community around it as much as the art itself. Because one thing I especially respect is that women with small children aren’t excluded here – they just bring their children along, who find a veritable army of “aunties” and “chechis” (big sisters) ready to dote on them while their mothers are busy.
And after all that – the performance itself goes by so fast. I mean, I suppose any performance has that quality to it, but it’s on another level when you’ve spent 3 weeks in daily rehearsal and 5 hours getting dressed to perform just 15 minutes of material! I think we did really well though, over three pieces representing four styles of dance (bharatanatyam, mohiniyattam, kuchipudi and keralanatanam).