Danseuse and performing artist Zia Nath on why she is attracted to ancient art forms, and how Osho influenced her body and mind, reports Anjala Shetty. Published in the Hindustan Times on September 4, 2018.
A performer for three decades and a therapist for two, for Zia Nath these two disciplines of work have become extensions of each other. A practitioner of Gurdjieff sacred dances and whirling for a long time, Zia founded Realms of Dance, a presentation of ancient sacred dances of India and Central Asia, showcasing Odissi classical dance and whirling mandala. She will be performing this month at the Global Festival of Spiritual Sciences 2018 at Pyramid Valley, Bangalore.
You have said that Osho influenced your dance? Tell us more…
I was introduced to Gurdjieff Sacred Dances and Sufi Whirling at the Osho International Meditation Resort (OIMR), Pune in 1993. That was the beginning of my journey in sacred dance. I was inspired by Osho’s talks about dance being a meditation, Osho’s discourses on Sufism and Sufi whirling, about our body being the vehicle of consciousness and dance being one of the most effective ways to experience this. So, while I studied dance on the outside, the works of many mystical enlightened masters like George Gurdjieff, Mevlana Rumi, Zen Masters and Osho, accompanied me in my journey within.
What inspired you to come up with Realms of Dance?
I was practising Gurdjieff sacred dances and whirling for a long time. Traditionally, neither of these dances are performance oriented. It is practised for spiritual growth, exploring states of consciousness, and meditation. After being immersed in it for almost 15 years, I decided to explore Indian temple dances. I found Odissi dance to have a similar essence and started studying it. I felt complete. Odissi dance is very feminine and lyrical, while Gurdjieff dances are very linear and masculine. And whirling, of course, is a dimension that belongs to the beyond – when polarities meet, we move into a mystical realm – that’s the essence of whirling. I put my first show together in 2008. I called it Sufi Splendour and presented it for the prestigious Kartik Poornima Festival, by Maharana of Mewar in Udaipur.
How have you used your knowledge of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) in dance?
In my practice, I find that both disciplines support and complement one another. I deeply understand the dynamics of the body and its movements, as well as its relation with emotions and mentality. And being a BCST therapist, the study of anatomy and physiology, the musculoskeletal system, the brain and central nervous system, the physiology of trauma and its recovery, is integral to my work. So, when I’m working with a patient with physical injuries, I have an experiential understanding of the dynamics of the injury and its repair process (as a dancer, I am always dealing with some injury or other and yet the dance must go on). When I’m working with a patient with trauma history, I understand how the physiology and hormonal system can be co-operated with by working with the anatomy of the body, bringing in specific movements and adjustments to support a release. This understanding is an extension from my learnings in dance.
What are the benefits of whirling?
I feel whirling belongs to a mystical dimension. So, to approach it in a linear way and look for its benefits is narrowing this multidimensional phenomenon. It has endless realms to it. The right inquiry would be, ‘what are we seeking?’. We must encourage everyone to encounter whirling with no expectations, that leaves them free and that’s when whirling can do its mysterious work on us, and allow us to see its benefits, which are endless. We enter into the realms of whirling through the doors of mystery, knowing that we are starting a journey into a dimension that is beyond this dimension, not somewhere out there, but right here, within us.
Is there anything new you have added to your dance specialities?
I’m attracted to the old and ancient. So, I keep digging up old texts and sutras, and I live them through my dance. Recently, I’m exploring the 112 sutras of the sacred text by Shiva – The Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, and using dance as a language to translate this.