After decades of bharatanatyam, yoga, meditation, research, writing, teaching and more recently my practice of the Japanese dance theatre form butoh, 2016 saw it all coming together as Antarika - a healing movement system.
Blending breath work, mindfulness and restorative movement practices, Antarika is a mind-body experience for stress relief, wellness and creativity. It recognises and nurtures the human being's natural presence and relationship between breathing and moving.
I have to say the Antarika seed was planted at least 12 years ago years ago when I began to learn the Krishnamacharya style of yoga in Chennai. It was fascinating for me, as a dancer, to begin moving with a total focus on breathing.
Dance and yoga began to converge and my practice, choreography, teaching and performance shifted dramatically.
A few years later I was invited to teach the Asian Mind-Body Practices module at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts here in Singapore, and I realised that a new movement system was emerging. My postgraduate studies in 2012 included fieldwork in butoh, a form that I drew into my movement practice, research and teaching.
In March this year, I was invited to conduct a workshop for groups of women in Phuket. It was time to encapsulate the movement system and lifestyle experience in a name. Antarika in Sanskrit means "inward" or "in between". Tari is "dance" in Malay, a language that is also very close to my heart. By August, Antarika received her trademark certification.
Over the months, people from diverse ages and backgrounds have been experiencing Antarika. "Confidence", "Respect", "Acceptance", 'Calm", "Present", "Awakening", 'Alignment", "Harmony"... are some of the words they use to describe their experience. As for myself, I feel "blessed". It's one thing to have danced for many years, but something else to help nudge others into conscious breathing and moving in a spirit of self-acceptance and ahimsa (non-violence) to the body.
It has been a long journey. Dance forms such as bharatanatyam are not particularly kind to the physical body, especially in the way they are sometimes imparted. But... I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to learn, perform and teach it. It will always be a base and part of my bodily memory.
Today, some of my clients are mature women who have been trained in forms such as bharatanatyam since childhood. It moves me to tears to work with them and watch them rediscover their dance, on their own terms. And there are others who begin by telling me they have “two left feet”. Gradually they begin to discover and embrace their unique movement. Totally absorbed in the moment, they dance ... as if softly, each foot is “kissing the earth" (Thich Nhat Hanh). So powerful.
When I count my blessings, I think of my spiritual Masters and of the People who have stood by me and cheered me on. It took years and what a non-linear trajectory. But hey, we did it! After years of boredom and suffering in the Science stream (partly self-inflicted), I embarked on my undergraduate studies in Sociology which I enjoyed immensely. Artistic projects got me collaborating with some amazing people, and on issues very close to my heart. (My recent 2016 collaboration – “Supermoon”, was with Lalu Lalang Lab, a new multidisciplinary performing arts collective to which I belong). A stimulating postgraduate programme in dance anthropology opened the doors to new perspectives and experiences. A daughter, Priyanka, who is pursuing her own exciting dreams.
And Now, Antarika...
I firmly believe that each individual is a very unique creation and has a special contribution to make to society. Each of us needs support to realise and recognise this.
The world would be a very different place if we could focus on one another's inclinations and strengths, and help to kindle that unique spark that exists in every individual. This would go a long way in helping each of us value our presence in this (potentially) beautiful world.
Talking about the world, how can one enter 2017 without being armed with hope? The words of Desmond Tutu come to mind, “Hope is being able to see that there is light, despite all of the darkness”.
I realise Antarika has her little part to play. She is gradually revealing to her practitioners that she has the potential to unlock the inner door to delve deep within, to heal, calm & free the body and mind. And to help discover ways to communicate one’s rich inner world with the external world. Embedded in Antarika, is a sense of life purpose, coupled with gratitude and this life-affirming thing called hope.
Wishing for us all a 2017 that's filled with abundant hope, strength, peace and goodwill.