The other day, I took a tour around Nrityagram. This small community near Bangalore, in southern India, is an oasis of calm and utter devotion to an ancient art: classical Indian dance. Birds were calling, and around the low, earth-colored buildings containing dance studios, living quarters and a small temple, stood hundreds of vibrantly green trees, dripping with moisture. (It is the end of the wet season.)

As I rounded a bend in the path, I saw little girl wearing bright orange and yellow, daydreaming in a banyan tree. She slid down from her perch and joined the walkabout.

This early morning scene — the trees, the gray sky threatening rain, people sitting at breakfast — unfolded as I peered into a screen on my phone late at night in my New York apartment. The tour was virtual, conducted on WhatsApp. That is more or less the only way you can visit Nrityagram these days, since it closed its doors to the outside world at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We have been living our lives exactly as if nothing has happened,” Surupa Sen, Nrityagram’s artistic director of 23 years, said later in an interview on Zoom. Under her leadership, Nrityagram continues to be what it always has been, but more so: a dance haven, self-contained and single-minded in its focus, at a remove from a chaotic and sometimes frightening world.

The only people who come and go are a small group of women from the nearby village, who help with daily chores. Upon arrival, they are asked to change into clothes that have been washed on-site and to don masks.

The form practiced by Ms. Sen and her dancers is Odissi, which originated in the eastern state of Odisha. It is one of India’s eight official classical dance forms, with movements and shapes that evoke the sculptures and bas-reliefs on medieval temples. In its origins, it is a devotional form, dedicated to the deity Jagannath, whose name means lord of the universe.

“The idea is that you submit yourself to a universal something,” Ms. Sen said. Her works have extended the form, while remaining true to its underlying drive, the search for transcendence.

Ms. Sen and her dancers devote most of their waking hours to perfecting this art, refining and strengthening their bodies through exercise, and perfecting their dancing through technique classes and rehearsals in which they learn traditional Odissi choreography as well as new works by Ms. Sen. For now, the group is all women; the sole male dancer returned to Mumbai to visit his family early on in the pandemic and has not yet returned.

Life here has continued to follow a routine. For this piece, we asked the dancers to document their day, from dawn to dusk, capturing moments and places with disposable cameras.

At 6 a.m., they rise for a morning run. Then, each woman is responsible for cleaning some part of the hamlet and for placing flowers on the small altars in the dance studios.

Aishani, 11, is the only child living among adults, as well as a devoted student of dance who takes daily class and rehearses with the members of the ensemble. In a rehearsal I watched remotely, she considered every correction Ms. Sen gave her with diligence and gravity.

“We discovered her dancing by herself when she was 4 or 5,” Ms. Sen said after the class. “She was making up her own dances to the music coming from the studio. So we had her join the weekend class with the other kids.” In their absence, she has graduated to working with the adults. One day, she said, she hopes to become a professional dancer.

No longer able to tour or hold performances for locals, the dancers have taken to performing for one another. “It helps us keep that performance drive,” said Dhruvatara Sharma, a member of the ensemble. “Actually, there is even more pressure. You have to be perfect, because you’re performing for a really well-educated audience.”

Afterward, they talk into the night, offering minute critiques and observations. It’s something they would normally have neither the time, nor the occasion, to do.

Ms. Sen performs, too, and the intimate, informal setting allows her to try things she would hesitate to in a conventional performance. “Last time,” she said, “I danced four pieces I would never normally do together. They were all on the sad side, about longing. Normally this would just be too much, too much intensity.”

After two decades of teaching, choreographing and touring, Ms. Sen has been able to slow down and rediscover her own dancing. “I feel like I’m looking at myself as a dancer for the first time in my life,” she said. “And I’m discovering that this color is also there, and that color.” All this, she says, will be reflected in whatever she chooses to create next.

This has been true for the other dancers as well. For one, they’ve had much more uninterrupted, concentrated time to work with their guru — but also to think about their dancing outside of the pressure of preparing for a performance. “The fact that you are able to do it in an environment of sheer focus and consistency, it brings a certain purity to it,” Ms. Sen said. “There is the sense of extending yourself beyond just yourself.”

What the dancers of Nrityagram have gained, most of all, is time. Even here, the dimension of time has changed in the pandemic, opening up spaces in the dancers’ schedule and their minds.

“Odissi comes from an era when people had more time, when you could live in a moment much longer,” Ms. Sen explained. “Finding that sense of longing, of yearning for something, takes time. You have to stay with it for a while, sit in it and experience all the colors of it.” Now, protected from the storm that surrounds them, that time has come for the dancers of Nrityagram.

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