In Natya we learn - yatho Hāsta thathho Dristi, yatho Drishti thathho manaha, yatho Manaha thathho bhaava, yatho bhaava thathho rasaha.
Upto the bhaava, it is the job of the dancer on the stage......having executed the gross movements of limbs and eyes and the subtle nuances of bhaava, the rasa is for the rasikas or the audience... the Sakshi. If the dancer plays out the role completely, the rasa is enjoyed, revelled in by the mute (participating silently through all the bhaavas) Rasika. If the dancer who is supposed to express the bhaava of the story content, instead starts to express the bhaava of revelling in it, or starts to ‘feel’ the rasa, then there is a problem, because he or she HAS to depict various bhaavas within the story content in quick succession and it would actually be a hindrance to the enactment, if the actor constantly comes up from behind the mask thus confusing the Rasika or audience.
And then there also are the co-players, and parallel stories, and medleys, and dances of co ordinated coupling and many such dynamics continuously at play!
In truth the actor himself/herself is as much the audience of his/her enactment as the outside audience is. He /she does revel in the roles but objectively - never needing to show the audience the constant presence in and through the roles.
And that is what ‘being one with the audience’ or ‘feeling the pulse of the audience’ means....to be one with oneself through the roles.
If the role is played to the hilt, the rasa will surely arise in the Rasika and the audience as a totality shall revel, knowing it is an enactment and thus completely free of entanglement. If not, the Rasika will, in all probability, remain stranded at the level of sense appreciation or become stupefied in the labyrinth of the various roles, rather than melting into the ocean of rasa.
So then, the question arises - dance first or dancer?
To me it is clear that in the totality the dancer comes first, the cosmic dancer; but the enchantingly devious clinch of the game is that in the relativity of gross enactments the appearance as though the dance comes first must be maintained for the performance to go on. The story must go on as if real, the dance must continue as if untiringly, the song must be as though ended with the perfect rhythmic finale.
To know this truth is penultimate no doubt; without knowing one cannot play, dance, sing; one can only clumsily entangle. Yet, to know and then emote the bhaavas as if the dancer does not exist, to burn the still stage with dynamic and fluid movements is the name of the game. For that very purpose the secondary ‘I’ is planted .... the ‘as though I’......the dancer on the stage.....the shadow play of apparentness.
The best actor is the one who plays out all his roles knowing he is the actor but never ever having to need to reveal the true face or facelessness of the actor beneath or behind the mask, for it is a given that THAT IS in and through the various roles and without whom the roles shall just not be. On the other hand, the cosmic dancer/actor shall always BE with or without roles.....but would matter to none....there wouldn’t even be a himself/herself.
Mira Bai sings -
“jo tum thodo piya, mein nahi thodoon …thosoon preet thod Krishna, kaun sang jodoon…tum bhaye sarovar, mein teri machhiya; tum bhaye girivar, mein bhayi chara; tum bhaye chanda, mein bhayi chakora; tum bhaye moti prabhu, hum bhaye dhaaga…” Thus saying she established herself as irremovable from Krishna.
And think about it, what master without a slave, what ocean without the fish, what tree without leaves, what pearl without the entwining? When one knowingly, happily chooses to be the looser or second fiddle, what a beautiful love story that is!
One who knows this is silently eloquent, serenely passionate, lucidly dynamic, restfully restless .....an ever convulsive universe in constant meditation....Ardhanareeswara.....