What is 'The Raadha Kalpa Method'?
The Raadha Kalpa method is a pedagogical structure developed for the practice of Classical Indian dance forms, specifically, Bharatanatyam. This method of practice and training has been developed by Rukmini Vijayakumar through her study of varied knowledge systems over the last 15 years. The method encompasses structured and specifically designed practice that develops awareness of physical alignment through muscular activation and engagement. It progresses to efficient dynamic transfer in the implementation of technique and skill. The traditionally prescribed progression of skill is supplemented with allied exercises that ensure the advancement and inclusion of every type of student. The skills (physicality, aesthetics, rhythm, artistry) are introduced individually and not taught as a finished product during the practice of repertoire. Imagination and creativity are addressed as separate qualities that are necessary in the development of a classical dancer, and exercises to develop specific qualities in these areas are introduced with precision and well structured progression of content.
The method aims to create an efficient, malleable, aligned, and an aesthetically coherent body, that holds within it, varied dynamics that are deferred in expression. Neutrality is an essential part of the Radha Kalpa method. The neutral body, informed in any vocabulary allows the maximum possibilities of expression. Neutrality in emotion allows honest response in a character. The method aims to create a dancer that is not only theoretically knowledgeable, but also creatively aware, with a mind that allows ideas to soak and grow. It progressively builds the ability to imagine, and respond honestly to imagined circumstances.
The core of the method lies in the creation of “neutrality” in both mind and body. The neutral dancer becomes an empty canvas informed with vocabulary devoid of dynamic accents. The dynamic accents can later be added to inform context, content and intent within choreography. A dancer with physical and dynamic accents repeatedly reinforced during the training process becomes less malleable in varied contexts of intent. This idea is unique to the Raadha Kalpa method, as the idea of a Bani in Bharatanatyam is defined by the embellishment of dynamic accents. The specificity of physical accents that are attached to Adavus (the basic units of movement in Bharatanatyam) are often enough to identify a particular Bani (style of Bharatanatyam, attached to a lineage of learning).
The Raadha Kalpa method attempts to strip the training and practice of Bharatanatyam from any and all dynamic accents in the practice and training stage. The accents are added in choreography and context, and therefore do not limit the body to one or another accent. For example, if we learn the words sun, stars and moon. They are plain words. They have no adjectives. They can be placed within a context and given meaning. The ‘burning sun, twinkling stars and expansive moon’ is very different from ‘the bright sun, quiet stars and waning moon’. The attached physical dynamics are like the adjectives of the word. If we attach ‘bright’ to ‘sun’, the sun will always be bright no matter in which sentence we put it. The Raadha Kalpa method attempts to separate the adjective from the word to enable full capacity of expression, thus expanding the possibilities of the Bharatanatyam vocabulary itself.