ONLINE: Dakshina Vaidyanathan dances at seven months pregnant for her first baby

Dakshina in Ayoga Vatsalya (pic: Facebook)

Dakshina Vaidyanathan is a gifted and accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer trained by her gurus, mother Rama Vaidyanathan and grandmother Saroja Vaidyanathan. She is a very agile, energetic, flexible and expressive young dancer and was recently going through the greatest endowment of womanhood, her first pregnancy. Her unstoppable spirit wanted to dance even in the third trimester of her pregnancy, and she choreographed and performed a piece about her feelings for her unborn child. She created this piece for Shishu Mandir, a Bengaluru NGO that provides free education to children from impoverished backgrounds.

In the previously recorded performance, Dakshina explained that the Natya Shastra talks of ayoga shringara, where lovers have not seen each other and yet feel the pangs of love. She equated her emotions for her unborn child to the same love, calling it ayoga vatsalya. For her, that love right now is the utmost love in the universe, but the situation is paradoxical. In ayoga shringara, the two lovers unite in the end, whereas here, the mother and the child are separated – the umbilical cord is cut when they finally get to see each other. Personally, however, I feel that a mother can never cut the emotional cord. She still pines to see her children, however old they grow or far they go. It is the beginning of their becoming two entities from one and the yearning after a separation.

Dakshina started by very subtly expressing her love for the unborn child, caressing and kissing her womb. Her gestures denoted that for her, this baby is dearer than anything else in the universe, though she has not yet met the baby nor seen it. The sneh or love of the mother does not need knowing or seeing. The vocals for this section by Sudha Raghuraman were very effective, her aalaaps and her stresses on the word ‘na pashyati, na jaanami’. Dakshina goes on to show how she is imagining her baby would look. She is trying to draw its face, imagining the features, the nose, the eyes, the lips, and what it might look like as she admires the picture. She is not sure what her child would like to play with her: a ball game or hide and seek. Would she or he want to read books as she gets them out? Would she or he like to hear stories about animals, snakes or lions? Would she or he want to come and surprise her from behind? 

Dakshina in Ayoga Vatsalya (pic: Facebook)

Each act was performed with extreme gentleness, as if the baby was moving around her when, in fact, she finds it inside herself. If she counts on her fingers all the things that are precious to her, the baby would be the foremost. As the mother gets tired and tries to sleep, suddenly, there is an onset of pain and contractions in her abdomen. Dakshina sat down in the position of delivering a baby. As the baby emerges, she picks it up and brings it close to her, admiring it. And then suddenly she wonders, was the child in her imagination better than the real one? When she finds the baby better in reality, she tears the painting and throws it away. The mother tells the baby, today, when the cord is cut, we are no more one entity, but two. We have become two today. She tells the baby, this un-unification puts the mother in a position to see the baby and hold her close to herself. It is the rule of creation that two individuals will come together and then unite to produce one entity, which is the baby inside the mother, who will then again be separated into two.

If you thought you were looking at a performance of a regular kind, this was not it. A dancer of Dakshina’s calibre, in her abhinaya, becomes one with her character, whether it is Surpanakha or Rudrama Devi. But here, she was not performing. There was no technique and no abhinaya. This was every bit her emotion from every pore of her body. Her every move was basically a gesture of love, and every emotion that she showed on stage was the conveyor of her love for her little one, who has already arrived in her world.

Later, I asked Dakshina how she was fit enough to dance at that advanced stage of her pregnancy. By the time we spoke, she had already delivered her son. ‘I have had many sleepless nights since the baby keeps me awake. I think one should not start doing any new exercise during one’s pregnancy. But what you have been doing, and what your body is accustomed to doing, you can keep on with that. One should not stop doing that and give a shock to the body. During my pregnancy, I was dancing, rehearsing and choreographing. I did not perform, because performance requires a different level of rigour, and of course I had toned down my dancing since I did not have that kind of energy. But I did continue with dance as a part of my daily routine. This particular piece did not have much nritta, more of abhinaya. So it was not difficult to dance so late in my pregnancy,’ she told me.

Dakshina danced all during her pregnancy (pic: Facebook)

The video is not available online anymore, but you can donate to Shishu Mandir at https://www.shishumandir.org/take-action.

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