Dancing is all in the mind, says Indian classical dance master P.T. Narendran as he prepares Bharatanatyam students in Perth for a special concert this Saturday.
"Whether it is Bharatanatyam, ballet or modern dance movement, the mind comes first . . . once you train the mind, you remove the fears, you become confident and the body performs wonders," says the 44-year-old Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer and teacher from Chennai who is on his first visit to WA.
Narendran, dubbed the globetrotting lord of dance as he spends eight months of the year touring the world to perform and conduct dance workshops, is like a psychologist and philosopher to his students.
Perth Bharatanatyam teacher Shobana Gobu had lost her confidence after having children. She didn't think she could get back into dance until last year when she went to Chennai to retrain under Narendran.
"The master kept talking for the first two days, and I thought he is just talking and when am I going to dance again," she says. "Though I did not realise it then, he was working on my mind and I actually regained my confidence and now I am teaching the art form in Perth again."
For Narendran, the "mind is king and the body the horse".
"My body is my instrument," he says. "It is my atma (soul). It has to be pure. It is about refinement. So, we have to have clean thoughts, habits, focused mind and self-respect which then extends to respecting others.
"Just as a horse will perform only as well as you look after it, the body has to be in tune. I know I am 170cm tall and the universal wisdom is to be at 70kg. In my mind, I have set 68kg as my maximum weight, and do everything, jogging or whatever, to stay at that level."
A neurologist in Germany once told Narendran that Bharatanatyam was a great way to use the right side and the left side of the brain equally.
"It is so true," Narendran says.
"In Bharatanatyam, the technical movements and choreography are symmetrical in nature.
"One mirrors the movements of the right side of the body with the left side, initiating better co-ordination."
Narendran, who comes from a family of dancers, began learning the art at seven from his sister. He joined the renowned Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts at 11 and since 1989, has been a principal dancer of the Kalakshetra dance troupe.
He is sought-after around the world because he is one of the few dancers who can sing, dance, choreograph and teach.
He has performed at global dance festivals and conducted workshops and shows in Britain, and most of Europe, especially with Switzerland's famed Bejart Ballet group.
He also has toured Melbourne six times.