Exploring Depths of Experience in Arts, Letters, Science and Ideas
Shiva’s Moon The Dance of India by Marisa MogliaGo Back to Table of Contents
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If, in the present age, artists have lost their ability to express such divine ecstatic experience, to raise the created to the creator-then spectators likewise are unable to receive any such transcendental message. Modern attention seems to be brief, linear and orgasmic and contrasts with the anticlimactic, cyclical concept of time which permeates Indian art. Even in modern India, much of the ancient concept of eternal time and ever permeating spirituality is now mimed in squalid empty gesture.

Such an epoch of spiritual decadence is describe in Indian philosophy as part of the cycle of the ages, or Yuga. We perhaps live in the last cycle before renewal: the Kali Yuga, which is, in its turning toward renewal, itself unbalanced. Such concepts will sound far-fetched to many students of dance in the West; where time is considered linear and progressive and who explore the body’s movement through dissection and who see dance as a means of exploring one’s own joys, pains, desire and inhibitions. The intentionality of such exercises is to “find one’s self.” The intentionality of the Indian dance is to lose one’s self. The intentionality of the Western dance may be thus to break with the past, as well as existing structure, aesthetic modes or political oppressions. The intentionality of the Indian dance is conversely to evoke the past wholly into the present and future as one.

Thus at first the Western adept may find it extremely difficult to follow a classical Indian dance class-to be given no motivation for movement-to observe and repeat over and over and over the slightest gesture. Everything may seem foreign: the rhythms, the positions, the characters who inhabit the dance: the Gods and the Demi-Gods. One must become King Rama slaying the ten-headed demon, or become the ten-headed demon itself. What keeps one enthralled is the tiny glimpse of a sacred secret unfolding slowly-like a thousand petaled lotus-the discovery of something abstract and infinite. This experience, like the carrot that dangles at the same distance in front of a stubborn ass, continues to sustain through years of exasperating study and repetition-through periods of study in India (the heat, rats, mosquitoes, amoebas)-the intricate guru/disciple relationship and the loving devotion that this requires-the frustration and boredom one faces each day in the studio alone-practicing and trying to unpeel the outer, more accessible layers of the dance-to penetrate into some new, more profound meaning. Sometimes one surprises oneself. Looking at the clock on the wall, normally a well controlled enemy, one realizes how painlessly the hours have passed away. One glimpses something not identifiable in one’s own conception of themselves as either person-or artist-or dancer; something beyond positive or negative-something like the deep well residing in the Bhagavad-Gita-something like “the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon... the sound in ether and the ability in man.”

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