To tell the truth, my Varnam was the hardest song of my repertoire. It was also the hardest topic to write about. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I briefly discuss the Varnam in my earlier post titled The Structure, which you can visit for more info.
The Varnam is difficult for most students for several reasons:
– the steps are a lot more complex, especially the footwork
– the dance goes on for at least 30 mins ( mine went on for more than 40 straight)
– there is a lot to remember
– there are a great many more expressions to master
– there are a great many more characters whom you have to represent convincingly through mannerisms and posture
– this is also the one dance your arangetram will be judged by
For me personally, since I depicted the Epic of the Ramayana, there were a multitude of characters and expressions I had to do. My two main struggles were in remembering everything at first, and in being satisfied by my expressions. I personally didn’t have issues with physical stamina or learning steps, but at the beginning I did find that while doing all my pieces at once, if the first half really wore me out, I would forget the simple parts of my Varnam and remember all the fast paced, complex steps. I thought it was pretty weird, but ultimately practice was the only thing that helped me overcome that hurdle.
The Varnam is pretty stressful but if you let yourself relax, it’s a lot of fun. On the day of my arangetram, all I thought about was the story I was trying to tell, and everything fell into place really naturally and perfectly. I still remember how exciting that was for me, and you will too 🙂
I do have a few tips for those of you trying to conquer your varnam and make it the very best you can:
1. For each character, spend some time just thinking about who this person is, how they will act, react, what their thoughts are, and how they are feeling. Feelings are the biggest part. Really try to put yourself in their shoes and feel from your heart what their pain, their joy, their sadness, their jealousy is like to them, and how they might behave as a result. It may be tempting to simply scratch the surface ( this character is just angry and arrogant and hated by all) but the character only comes out in dance when you go deeper (this person feels hurt and betrayed and is responding angrily to cover up his internal pain)
2. Say the story in your mind as you go. This helps because by just thinking about what you’re trying to say, your face speaks way more convincingly than you could ever teach it to.
3. I know I’ve said this before, but it really helps to practice your expressions in front of a mirror, or record them, so you can see how you feel about them.
4. Practice a lot. Everyday, just take out 30 mins and dedicate them solely to your Varnam. Just go over the problem areas repeatedly and enjoy being 20 people at once. It not only boosts your confidence and ability but also helps with stamina.
5. When you’re practicing, concentrate only on the dance. Don’t think about anything else, not school, not work, not even the fact that in a matter of time it won’t be just you in the living room, but you on a stage in front of an audience. That kind of pressure would just psych anyone out and isn’t healthy. So don’t take it! Be you, be happy, relax and have fun with the dance!
Well, now you have my two cents on doing the Varnam! I hope this was enjoyable, helpful and maybe even got you to relax a bit! If you have any questions, comments or concerns, be sure to let me know.
Thanks so much for all the positive love and support – we shall meet again next week!