Published: 04th August 2021
How this Bharatanatyam dancer from Hyderabad reinvented herself during the pandemic
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. She had to close one of her studios, contracted COVID and suffered an injury, but Nenita Praveen still managed to rethink what it means to be a dancer
FOMO — that's the one major reason why Nenita Praveen decided to put out Surya, a short video honouring the light-giving and life-giving Sun that might be under two minutes but has garnered over 5K views since it was put out online on June 2, 2021. "There was such a deluge of videos coming up on social media that I had to jump on to the bandwagon," says Nenita, laughing. But once she got to it, she realised that it would take a lot of work and her precious time.
Nenita Praveen says that she is at that point with her dance where she is constantly questioning and reinventing, trying to find a new footing
Nenita has been dancing to her own tune for a long time now. She pursued her Master's In Bharatanatyam (Correspondence) from Madras University while working as an architect. The 31-year-old went down the road not taken, officially, when she started working with Daksha Sheth Dance Company in Thiruvananthapuram, known for their Indian contemporary performances. She's also worked in prestigious productions like Rukmini Vijayakumar's first edition of The Dark Lord — Lament of the Poetess of Love and in 2016, this young dancer took the plunge to start Meenakshi Studio For Arts.
So you see, it's been five years since she launched her own studio in Hyderabad. But the last two pandemic years have been gruelling for the artist. She had to shut down one of her two studios in Sindhi Colony, switch to online classes, battle COVID and the mental stress induced by it, apart from dealing with an injury. "Bharatanatyam is a rigid dance form so I never understood when people said they dance when they are upset. But for the first time ever, I cried, shouted, broke down, laughed and danced unabashed with music," says Nenita and it was no less than a revelation. It's been a tough year for everyone, including artists. But what if art could be the saviour?
Nenita also initiated a collaborative piece on mental health called Brighter Places during the pandemic
Surya is one of the many new projects that this Hyderabad-based classical dancer took up. "In December 2020, I escaped to Auroville (in Puducherry) for a few days because I just had to get away. That's where I took up a Kollam workshop and the patterns felt so much like dance," mulls Nenita, who was born in Sakleshpur, Karnataka, and brought up in Hyderabad. That's why Kollam is a strong element in Surya. Essentially, this short video is a tribute to fire because it's one of the most important elements Earth is made of. "Why do we celebrate Sankranti? It's not just a harvest or a kite-flying festival, we show gratitude to the Sun, to fire, through the festival," says the danseuse who coincidentally started working on Surya during Sankranti.
It's about the expressions
The background music might be the ever-familiar Gayatri Mantra but Auroville-based musician Vineeth Kumar has infused it with an experimental contemporary flavour that is perfectly in sync with the cinematography and editing by Faiz Rai. A culmination of all this feels like more than just a pandemic project, it resonates. This is one avenue through which Nenita, who takes two online Bharatanatyam classes a day, wants to rediscover herself and be a more inclusive artist. "Surviving in this world where everything is so fast-paced is difficult, but I want to take this time to make an internal journey of rediscovery," says Nenita profoundly.