Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thakitta Tharikitta: The Rhythms of Indian Dance

Today is my last day in India, and I wanted to make sure to blog about a book related to Indian dance while I was still here. I chose Thakitta Tharikitta Bouncing Ball, by Jacob Samson Muttada (author) and Ashok Rajagopalan (illustrator), because it captures some of the rhythms of Indian dance. I wish I knew more about all the different forms of Indian dance, but I know that at least some of the rhythms in the book are from Bharatanatyam--one of the most popular forms of dance in south India.

At the opening of the book, little Abu is playing with his big red ball. But before too long, the ball rolls away, and Abu's adventures begin...

Thakitta tharikitta thakitta tharikitta
Abu plays with a big red ball.
Tharikitta thakitta tharikitta thakitta
The big red ball runs away.

The ball rolls and bounces further and further away, and Abu chases it all over his village--up the mountains, down the hills, through the market, and elsewhere. Each time the ball ends up somewhere new, we hear a different sound used in Indian dance. Thom! Deem! Thindanam tha!

My understanding is that when Indian dancers hear these different sounds, they know exactly what dance steps correspond. I believe they first learn the dance steps to these sounds, and once they understand the "language" of the dance, they set their steps to music.

I found a great video of very young children performing Bharatanatyam only to sounds (without music), and I found it amazing that the children were such accomplished dancers at such a young age. You can see the video here.

The book doesn't seem to be available in the U.S. market at the moment, but it is available from the independent Indian publisher Tulika Books. It was originally written in Malayalam (the language of the people who live in the Indian state of Kerala), but is now available in seven languages, including Hindi and English.  
We're heading off for the airport in a few hours to return to the states, but before we go I wanted to mention one more book that I really love. It is called My Dadima Wears a Sari, written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi

This is a sweet book about Dadima (a Hindi word for "Grandma") and her two granddaughters. Throughout the story, Dadima teaches the girls about saris, and they share their ideas about all the different ways a sari can be used. Dadima also shows the girls three of the saris that have been most important in her life, and the book ends with instructions on how to wrap a sari. 

The watercolor illustrations are rich and beautiful, and the text lives up to the illustrations. Because the book has a special meaning to me, I wanted to mention it here, even though it is not directly related to dance. Here, however, is a short excerpt that is...

She wears them made out of cotton. She wears them made out of silk. Sometimes she tucks the pallu, the end of her sari, tightly. And sometimes she lets it dance in the wind...

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