“I think Bharatanatyam on its own is everywhere.” – Radhe Jaggi

“I think Bharatanatyam on its own is everywhere.” – Radhe Jaggi

(Images taken from Radhe's website: http://radhejaggi.com/)

Dancer- Choreographer, Radhe Jaggi sat down with CSP at its office in Chennai on Tuesday, 11th June to discuss her experiences in travelling and performing abroad, as well as the work she has undertaken to promote Saris and Indian fabrics.

Can you tell us about your journey and what inspired you to take up dance?

"It was actually an accident. I learned dance when I was in boarding school where it was one of many activities. After 10th I didn’t want to go back to school. Not that I didn’t want to study, but I didn’t want to be in an actual school. So I visited Kalakshetra in 2006, where I was captured by the way dance was spoken about as an art form.

It was v
different from what I thought it was, but in the end it ended up quite well. It
was interesting cause I came from such an open environment in school and home
to a much more conservative approach in Kalakshetra. But at the end of the day,
the space and the teachers make you a great dancer.

I took a year off in between where I took a break from dance, but I started to miss it. And so I went back to dance. Then when I went back to my teacher from Kalakshetra, and asked her to be my teacher and she said yes."

(Images taken from Radhe's website: http://radhejaggi.com/) 

Can you tell us some of your cherished memories of your childhood and the influence of your parents, in specific of your father, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on you?

"I don’t know what specific incidents you want. I have a lot of animal stories. I grew up a lot on trees. I also read a lot, so much so that my father had to break my reading habits. My father used to have meetings and he would make me come to give him water during the meetings. I remember sitting in these meetings and he would even ask me my opinions on things discussed in the meetings. And so this is how he broke my reading habit, and got me interested in things beyond what I was initially interested in. "

Can you tell us about your fascination for travel especially adventure tourism and how it has been a great influence on your life? Have you travelled extensively like this with your father?

"Not really. I’ve been travelling with him a few times but we don’t really go as tourists, we go as part of a spiritual experience. But I’ve travelled with him when he’s had programs. And when I was a child I had summer holidays and so he had to take me with him. And when we travelled we stayed in people’s houses and so we met a lot of different kinds of people."

Does he come to your house?

"Yeah but he doesn’t come to Chennai that often. I go home sometimes or I see him if we’re both travelling somewhere nearby."

Tell us about your experience of studying Bharatnatyam in Kalakshetra. How did it shape your thinking?

"In Kalakshetra whoever you are whatever level you are, you start from scratch. Everyone starts from zero and when you come out of it it becomes second nature. If you wake someone up in the middle of the night and ask them to hold a posture they can. But while you’re there you’re a student. You learn the basics and the right ways to do certain things. And once you leave you can decide what to show on stage and why or if you want it to be different.

Right after I finished studying I started performing mainly in small temples in Tamil Nadu. I was lucky to have some young musicians with me. It was a good foundation for me before I started doing shows on a more technical or larger stage."

Radhe performing at the Chidambaram Temple (Images taken from Radhe's website: http://radhejaggi.com/)

When was the first time you performed abroad and what was the experience like?

"I don’t remember actually. I performed I think in the US, for the very first time, in the Ashram there. But since it was the ashram there was a certain level of comfort. I don’t know if it was my first performance but they have these world peace day celebrations in the ashram and in the evenings they always have some show – so on one of those slots I danced for about 10, 15 minutes.

We did a few shows in the US before Adiyogi was built, to bring some awareness to it. That was my first tour abroad."

Can you tell us in detail about your visit to Korea and the production “Bahuchara Mata — the third sex”, a collaboration between Indian and Korean artists which culminated at the end of three weeks to a performance at the Gwanju Art Festival?

"I went to South Korea as part of InKo Centre’s project with a South Korean theatre company. I went as a dancer and a percussionist from Trivandrum that I knew, as well as a flutist. The three of us went from the Indian side, and we worked for about 3 weeks. And we showcased the performance in Seoul. It was based on an Indian folk tale. We shared elements of our dance with elements of their traditional dance and their director put it all together and made it a cohesive piece."

What are some countries you’ve been to?

"Malaysia, US, UK, Singapore, Canada. I remember once dancing for a private dinner hosted by an MP at the UK parliament."

Do you get invites from governments abroad?

"Not really. Even through ICCR the sponsorships are lower. I think they’re focusing on senior dancers more.  I go wherever I’m invited; I don’t actively search out governments."

Radhe at her performance in the UK in 2013 (Images taken from Radhe's website: http://radhejaggi.com/)

For younger people to take this up as a career, how do you see performing arts evolving globally?

"I think Bharatanatyam on its own is everywhere. And I think that if the teaching of it can be improved – everyone learns dance as a child but somewhere there is a disconnect between people who learn as kids and then forget it and don’t go back to it as adults. This doesn’t happen in the case of music. Somehow people that learnt dance haven’t come back as audiences. Maybe there’s something we’re doing wrong as performers or teachers."

Tell us about your love for Saris

"I want to do something with it, but I haven’t figured out what yet. I’m very fascinated by fabric and weave. There’s so many unique ways of weaving cloths in India. Even if you look at it historically, ancient high fashion even in Europe was all Indian weaves. And somewhere during colonization they broke our weaving traditions with the advent of the mill. And now I think people need to actively look for diversity in our weaves and our different fabric traditions, and look beyond that which is simply fashionable. I think now more and more young people are wearing saris, in different ways, which is good. But still we need to get over these excuses of “its too hard to wear” or “I can’t wear it everyday because I have to work.” And its surprisingly comfortable, because nowadays there’s less and less formality with a Sari. So it is an option.

If you’re not into Saris, then maybe look at natural fabrics or natural textiles."

(Picture taken from the Hindu Article on Radhe: 28 Saris Later https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/radhe-jaggi-on-her-sari-soiree/article26162908.ece)

What’s your favorite fabric?

"My favorite is Mysore Silk. It’s smooth as butter. It keeps you warm when you need to and cool when it needs to."

Do you plan to start a dance school?

"I’m not sure if I want to start a school, but I definitely want to start teaching. Right now I travel too much to take the responsibility of having students. But I think that is a decision I will make soon, but probably not with too many students."

How does it feel to be the daughter of Sadhguru?

"A lot of people ask me that, but he is my father. He’s a great father, but he is still my father. He doesn’t carry the weight of the people that follow him and I have never been told I can or can’t do something because I was his daughter. I never thought that I had to behave a certain way because I was his daughter. But it did give me a lot of opportunities, and I got to meet a lot of different people because of him."