"The body is the weapon, whether you are an exponent of dancing or the martial arts. If you don’t hone it properly it will deteriorate fast. The onus is on each of us to take good care of it.” These are the words of Shweta Prachande, foremost among the young practitioners of Bharatanatyam in India, who has performed extensively both in the country and abroad.

She was in town for the annual day function of Calicut Medical College. Her only other engagenment was a brief demonstration at the Silver Hills High School.

“Our generation of dancers pursues many activities simultaneously, though the opposite is better. Patience indeed is a virtue.” This opinion seems quite ironic coming as it does from an artiste who is equally adept in kalari and a rugby field as on a stage.

Having started dancing at the age of four, she concentrated in Bharatanatyam as she grew with Guru Sucheta Bhide Chapekar as first teacher. Now she is a disciple of Priyadarshini Govind for her teacher.

Bharatanatyam dancer Shweta Prachande
Shweta strikes a statesque pose.
Photos credit: Sajan V Nambiar

She represented India in Kyrgizstan on winning the Balashree award. Similarly, she was invited to the Commonwealth Festival in Malé.

Shweta has a diploma in Contemporary Dance Studies from the Trinity Laban Conservatory of Music and Dance, London. During this time, she got an opportunity to perform at the Nehru Centre there. The aesthetic amalgamation of various styles and techniques lends her dance a unique dimension.

According to her while our dances are more anchored to the floor and providing emphasis for facial expressions, the physicality of contemporary western ouevre, with its spins, twirls and whirls is worthy of emulation. Shweta observes that while Indian dancers pursue the art relentlessly, little heed is paid to the body on which it takes its toll.

She relies on yoga, which she practices at least thrice a week, the gymnasium and kalarippayattu to keep fit and trim. The 'strict grammar' of Kalaripayattu, shorn off weapons, is an ideal system to tone the body. A weekly regimen of a 2-hour session of dance repeated six times is a habit. 

Shweta hails rugby for having provided her insight into team work, which is not available from Bharatanatyam. In dance success or failure is individual. During childhood days in Pune she was keen on football. She chanced on rugby, popular among girls then, which caught her fancy too.  

When a national rugby female team was formed, a majority

Bharatanatyam dancer Shweta Prachande
A study in scarlet

were Punites. She was a member of the team which participated in the 2009 Asian Sevens tournament held in Thailand, which had a memorable outing trouncing Cambodia and Laos. While in England, she palyed for the Old Dustonians of Kent county.   

Since the the demands on the body in dancing and a contact sport are different, she has of late been concentrating on the former. Younger sister Saloni Prachande is a good rugby player. Father Suryakanth is a Kannadiga, while mother Sashi traces her roots to Punjab.

Husband Ritwik Raja from Chennai is T M Krishna's disciple. Though belonging to two distinct though related arts, which takes them seperate ways, home is a shelter of commingling harmony.

Both of them had performed in the Dharani dance festival in Kochi in November. Shweta says that the confluence of cultures makes for the diversity of Indian heritage to be reflected in their arts and lives.

(rehnakc@gmail.com)