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Leave the Crib, Hold the grin!

by Priya Raman

Indian dance in the 21st century is a heterogeneous mix of performers, promoters, collaborators, administrators, organizers, media, technical supporters, contemporaries, alma maters, competitors, coordinators, producers, back end staffers, assistants and so the list goes on.

A smooth functioning of this Industry of dance (If I may call so) necessitates mutual cooperation at the highest  level and lubrication of loose ends regularly. The show goes on implementing all this and despite odds, but the ‘Conspicuous Crib’ is evident.

It is a common milieu that dancers are often throwing tantrums and cribbing against the system. One can rarely gauge the length of these cribs in where they rise and when they touch horizons. Mediocre performances invite cribs in lack of genuine opportunity for the talented; inadequate interest on the part of the Government into cultural activities is always shouted aloud, monetary benefits according to the fraternity nevertheless touches the bottom line.  Labeled as an expensive art, poor facilities and infrastructure add to the misery.

Dancers opine that being the vital ambassadors of Indian culture, they do not receive their due in terms of recognition. Declining rate of audiences owing to westernization becomes a constant factor of concern in taking this heritage forward. Tired of the same traditional stuff of gods and queens, perhaps the Indian audience, or is the artiste, seeking something relevant to their life and times is the question. A career in dance being weighed inferior to the sciences is another popular complaint. Given the limited shelf life of an active performing artiste, dancers often lament about the long years of struggle before hogging the limelight.

Even after profound dedication, dance does not match the instant gratification that the youth derive from other entertainment channels like sports and movies. Sacrifice of personal life and non-existence of difference between the artiste and his/her product for marketing (like a painting for a painter) are also on the prime list of cribs from dancers.

The outside community of a host of organizers, the Government and collaborators label these cribs as ‘Tantrums’ on the part of dancers. This community claims that dancers tout themselves on a self created high pedestal which is unwanted, as art and artistes are on par with other fields and sciences in terms of effort put in, struggle period and the benefits in their career span. They often see unhealthy competition between contemporaries to the extent that organizers cannot accommodate them together! Expectation level always touches the roof but dancers don’t perceive things from the other side, in terms of giving back to the art. PR and lobbying they feel, takes crucial time of an artiste which could rather be spent in dwelling into work which would be noticed eventually. The organizers also  notice that negative feedback and criticism for performances from among circles and the media draw flack from the artistes!

Organizers of classical dance are slowly giving in to the fact that the level of hospitality and adhering to the norms of the Guru-Shishya Parampara is getting tougher to handle. The ratio of the platforms to the growth rate of artistes does not match thereby creating a void. The organizers are bottlenecked and called to do justice instead of dancers assessing the situation and working in tandem.

I am not attempting to draw attention to a grim situation rather it is an effort to mirror it!

Dissatisfaction on the part of the dancers needs some very strong pondering for they are virtual problems and need to be confronted. The elegant spirit of the Indian dancers have augmented each dance form and taken the Indian dances to the world stage. They are reviving and resurrecting an almost dead art and are proud to continue the art of their masters as taught to them. This process, only fuelled by passion is an uphill task and needs the right amount of backing. On the part of the Organizers the current situation is a hard task to come up with sustainable options.

At the end of it all it remains that if organizers give it all up there would be no platforms and if dancers become extinct, India loses its identity!I leave you with two quotes.

An organizer always keeps up his sleeve a margin for the unexpected – Anonymous

A piquant quote by Toronto based Denise Fujiwara, who at the closing of a round table discussion about solo dance made this comment. "Dancers are very tenacious and determined. We will find a way to continue to dance, to make dance and to keep dancing. We surprise many and ourselves with this determination and persistence."(As given by Anita Ratnam in Narthaki)

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