Have a look at the video that goes along with this post. It is highly edited; it is alluring; it gives a gloss to female power. It is both empowering for women but also blatantly commercial. This is Nataraj Monica, an itinerant dance teacher who founded the Indian chapter of Agama and is on the staff at Srithanu a few weeks every year.
Monika gave herself the pseudonym of Nataraj to remind herself of something. It is the name of Shiva in his dance form – the dance of creation; the illusion and beauty of life. Not many women dub themselves with a male name. Monika has studied dance since she was 5. She studied belly dance in Turkey. She had a spell in India, of course. She has done the 42 week Agama teacher trainer program. Her website is full of credits. It also makes clear that she has turned her hand to everything to get by on the road – yoga, teaching, organising, diving. Any job to continue the ‘journey’. At present her affiliation to Agama means you can meet her in Srithanu.
One thing from Monika’s CV that did catch my eye was the mention of studying the sacred system of Gurdjieff Movements. Gurdjjeff and Madame Blavatsky. Theosophy was obscure when I studied religion in the 1990s. The mystique of this strange couple continues to echo through the ages it seems. The appeal of the exoteric; the possibility of cracking the code and discovering the answer. Jiddu Krishnamurti raised to be the new Messiah by the Theosophists realised the system of control below the surface of new forms of religiosity.
What to make of the video? It is so edited that any narrative is lost. Shakti Dance is the dance form of yoga. It also seems to be copyrighted to the hilt. I guess Shiva isn’t worried about that.
The idea seems to be that the dance heightens awareness. You lose yourself in the dance. Hence the circles and the hypnotism of fire watching. Compare this with the whirling dervishes and the Sufi tradition.
Being a man, I sadly see bra straps, flowing fabrics and female power. The teacher seems to be absent (or not highlighted). The setting feels contrived. Rather than an introduction to a new form of yoga, I feel I am watching an advert playing with me through subliminal messages.