DANCE OF THE SOUL
eShe|December 2020
Scholar, performer and educator Dr Methil Devika on the form and spirit of Mohiniyattam
Aekta Kapoor

In the climactic scene in Methil Devika’s dance documentary Sarpatatwam (2018), she enacts the opening of the chakras and the rising kundalini through the classical Indian dance form Mohiniyattam. With her body, facial expressions and hands creating poetry in motion, the award-winning artist portrays within a few seconds of film the culmination of spiritual knowledge and practice: the destruction of the individualistic ego and the dissolution of self into the cosmos.

The 30-minute film brings together all of Devika’s passions – philosophy, music, dance and study of the scriptures. Critically acclaimed and even a contender for the Oscars, the film may touch a chord within you, and that won’t be accidental. “People say my art gives them goosebumps or leaves them elevated. It would not be possible if I had not experienced that state myself; the experience comes first and then the art,” says the Thiruvananthapuram-based dancer, actor and educator, alluding to a divine energy that inhabits the world of artists and creators.

Her performances stand apart not just for Devika’s depth of knowledge about the classical dances but also the experiential insight she brings to them. “I have gone through the dark night of the soul. After an experience, I sink into this abyss – which I call the liminal space between the art being latent and the art materialising. It’s that dark phase when you wait. Creativity is a painful process. Like all artists, I’m very sensitive. But that’s why I create like this. The body has an intelligence even before the mind,” says the 44-year-old dance scholar, who is adjunct professor of dance at York University, Toronto, Canada, and Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, Kerala.

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