TO LEARN IS TO TEACH ONESELF -feat Dance trainer/choreographer/performer Veena Basavarajaiah

img_1848The journey of an artist from a student, to a performer/ creator / director and then a teacher is a very natural progression. Many legendary teachers of the world in every field have taken this path. From Socrates, Aristotle, Leanordo da vinci, Einstein, Beethoven, Mozart, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Rukmini Devi Arundale to M.S. Subbalakshmi… almost every individual treads this path (consciously or unconsciously). This journey travels through different worlds. There have been students of micro biology turned into choreographers, and mathematicians who have turned into teachers of music. This journey has allowed us to learn and understand the world through different perspectives.

‘I am not selfish enough to be a performer all my life and not selfless & knowledgeable enough to teach all my life’.


dsc06808We begin with an insatiable urge to learn, the thirst for knowledge takes us to different sources, teachers and experiences followed by a desire to create and explore with the tools obtained through training and further an unexplainable longing to share this knowledge and experience. We choose our teachers through books, examples, research, and direct guidance from an expert/scholar or through self realization.


It has been an interesting journey to share, learn and collaborate with  dancers of Nritarutya. Every dancer hails from a different movement background. Every company acquires recognition and identity through the work they create and a style of moving they develop for themselves…likewise there is a definite framework within which they work, create, explore and experiment. Contemporary dance in India does not necessarily fit into to the worlds’ definition of contemporary dance. We have an ocean of traditional art forms to find a movement vocabulary of expression and innumerable literary, music and cultural sources to choose from. Nritarutya’s’ works are inspired from multiple sources and have a rich aesthetic presence.

As part of Dance education they give free scholarship based training to young dancers of various age groups and they have an elaborate training regime that exposes them to various Indian traditional art forms and performance. To understand their approach to movement and choreography and to be able to device technique classes is an interesting task. Any movement technique should have universal utility for eg .yoga would help every kind of movement artist regardless of cultural or artistic differences. A good technique would survive the test of time and go beyond all frontiers. To be able to work with talented young, passionate dancers and help them in understanding the utilization of different techniques to apply it in their individual and creative process is a challenge for a teacher. It is also a challenge for me to be able to apply these techniques when I dance with them as a guest performer.


Teaching has been an incredible learning experience. There is no place for pride or ego for a student and a teacher. I have often wondered if dance could be taught. It’s an innate quality in us to express through movement / body and to formally teach and train someone is somewhere beyond my comprehension. The recent emphasis has been more on stylization, codification and demarcation of one form from another and I ponder about formal training in dance as an expressive medium .To answer questions like why point your feet, why stretch your knees, why bend your knees leaves me with answers that have more to do with a codified form and tradition than the individual expression itself.

Training as a performer is essential like in any other skill, with performing artistes its also a tool of survival. To comprehend the nuances of the body, to develop strength and flexibility and fine tune it as an instrument of performance is one way of looking at it. It is inconceivable for us to accept our body as a high maintenance car that just facilitates our journey.


TO LEARN IS TO TEACH ONESELF, knowledge is about self realization and through my body /dance I discover (learn/teach) myself.


  • Amita

    22nd September 2010 at 11:34 pm Reply

    Lovely… the first quote…so true….”To learn is to teach oneself”…We all as artists experience this, and to pen it down, is like experiencing it two folds….loved it.

  • Entrepreneur

    22nd September 2010 at 11:34 pm Reply

    A very nice article from the personal life of a naturally-developed artist. I liked the flow and the openness that the artist followed while conveying her ideas.

    I am sure a lot of people would agree with her.

    God Bless!

    Vivek Kumar

  • Ashwin Mohan

    23rd September 2010 at 12:28 am Reply

    To answer questions like why point your feet, why stretch your knees, why bend your knees, its contextual, and the original encoder would have their reasons for codifying it. Here are some possible reasons

    Symbolic- pointed feet was a symbol of something in that era
    Aesthetic – Pointed feet were considered attractive visually
    Mechanics – pointed feet lent more strength/ stability to the move
    Sequence – pointed feet made to easier to enter the next move
    Environmental – pointed feet made it easier to avoid other dancers crashing into you or the props required you to point your feet
    Beliefs – pointed foot mudra made prana flow to the whole body and improved radiance in the dancers face

    And many more…

    But in a modern context many of these may not apply so we must ask new questions about who we are and where we’re headed and what we hope to achieve.

    Many artistes are guilty of ignoring the reasons for codifying something and therefore lose the integrity that comes from having a purpose to your work.

    This lack of integrity creates a nerve jangling experience for hapless viewers like me 🙂


    Ashwin Mohan

  • Laura Gallucci

    23rd September 2010 at 5:38 am Reply

    Your words are beautiful, I’m one to think that we have to let flow the knowledge to our students, we must teach all we know, with more desire than our teachers, with more love than our teachers, with more happiness; that is the challenge. There is nothing more beautiful than let the knowledge flow! Congratulations!!!!

    Jay Radhe!!!

  • Kishore Malur

    23rd September 2010 at 10:51 am Reply

    Dance is to attain a trance – traversing from conscious to subconscious state. One as to experience it to recognize.

  • Priya Raman

    23rd September 2010 at 10:18 pm Reply

    Great views…. an article that summarizes passion to do something, and the grit to take it forward.

    It so ‘you’. Great
    All the best

  • Ranjitha Gopalakrishna

    25th September 2010 at 2:05 am Reply

    The words – TO LEARN IS TO TEACH ONESELF is thoughtful.The way she started explaining about her journey as a student and till now is natural. And the example is gave – The students who transformed into choreographers & music who can see the world in different perspective is much interesting.
    The knowlege of an art & culture she shared through this article has to be appreciated.Her experience in nritatutya and as a dancer is very beautiful. Thank you Veena Basavarajaiah for sharing with us.

  • suhās

    6th October 2010 at 12:00 pm Reply

    Without pride – one wouldn’t be doing whatever that they are. The most effective way to identify one’s path with a journey is to instill pride in what they do and this is a teacher’s most important contribution – to make the student capable of identifying. Inspiration can be the spark that lights the flame but it is pride that keeps the flame burning. Ofcourse there is the path of nirvana and moksha which would completely disregard every existence of pride and its family of emotions that one feels… but if we were really seeking that we wouldn’t be here at this forum now, would we?

    Is the path lit? …

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