On the eve of Winter Solstice, Center for Soft Power launched a heart-warming dance video featuring the creative Rukmini Vijayakumar. Nadi: The balance of elements (Nāḍi, The Balance of the Elements - Center for Soft Power (softpowermag.com) is a five-minute, 45-second video of a woman’s journey from stress at work and home, to finding balance through the elements as prescribed in Ayurvedic texts.
The first half of the video is dark and gloomy, in lighting and sound, with even the choice of clothing (a sleeveless top and pants) being of down-toned, drabby colors commonly found in western professional attire. The choreography and settings are literal with a contemporary yet very grounding sense.
The performance expertly moves between principles of Bharatanatyam, showcasing the dancer with an erect spine and strong foot and leg movement along with hand mudras, and contemporary dance-movement and drama, expressing emotions of anguish, pain, and depression through facial motions in a yoga asana style. With her hair flailing about her, the character hit the lamp on her desk, representative of extinguishing the agni or fire element, important for movement in Ayurveda. Trying to complete all her tasks in a rush, she ends up losing everything. With technological creativity, the character’s head is cleverly shown about to explode. She is stuck under water. Unable to come up for air and unable to choose a direction to move in or a path to follow, she moves about in circles. The character is again depicted in a lost state, in a forest with the wind blowing strong and presumably rain coming down strong. She tries to protect herself with an umbrella, but her scrunched up face of frustration and disgust shows her failure, and she gives up.
The pace of the background instrumental music engages the viewer’s heartbeat, through suspenseful, fast-paced strings and percussions, as the woman realizes that her life is too chaotic to handle.
Everything is destroyed and she is angry. At this point, the stage is on fire, perhaps literally showing the burning of past karmas and ways of life as the character prepares to move towards peace, happiness, and health. She literally crashes on the edge of a beach, now in a sari.
Women (and perhaps men as well) around the world today can relate to this feeling of being pulled in multiple directions. Unable to handle everything in our lives along with all the modern, technological stimuli, we fall in exhaustion.
Here, all major elements of Ayurveda: the earth (depicted through the sand), the water (of the bright blue ocean waves), the fire (through the sun, crafty lighting, and choice of colors) combine to gently rejuvenate her and bring her back to life. She is alive. She is awake. She is aware. The lighting, sound, setting, and other components are drastically different, diametrically opposed to the first part.
The character’s attire is a flowing golden-hued sari, bringing out the gentleness and grace of the individual, akin to a deer as spoken in the puranas and itihasas of Indic knowledge. Now, the water is clear and we can see brightness everywhere as the woman receives love and care from the elements. The music is now soft, calming, refreshing, just like the waters she lies in while dreaming of a better future. On her face is a smile, and her movements are fluid and freeing. She stands tall and proud, with an open heart.
Expert underwater videography shows a clear blue ocean in which she swims freely in a bright orange sari. As she emerges into the sky like a dolphin from under the water, we hear the chanting paying obeisance to the father of Ayurveda, Lord Dhanvantari. We only imagine that the Lord is with her: perhaps he is the akasha-space element represented by the sky, just as the scriptures consider the Guru to be the space element, in which all other elements exist.
Through his blessings, she is collected, cool, and calm. Now, she can get back to work in a calm state of mind, with clarity. Everything is in order, symbolizing that everything has its own place and time, echoing the restraints of Dinacharya and Rtucharya concepts.
Moving between walks on the beach in gorgeous draped saris and her work place with a neatly stacked pile of paperwork, she is able to balance her life. Women of the world can pay heed to the lessons this character learns in order to keep their lives calm and composed: implement systems of Ayurveda. Nadi shows that through the philosophies and practices of Ayurveda, women (and men) become strong, stable, and secure.
Nadi: The Balance of Elements leaves the audience reassured, and curious to learn more about Lord Dhanvantari and the concepts of Ayurveda which can be harnessed to build strength and resilience in our pandemic times.