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Dance of change: At a time when there’s huge demand for Western dance, Indian classical forms still going strong

Dance of change: At a time when there's huge demand for Western dance, Indian classical forms still going strong
A file photograph of a Bharatanatyam efficiency in Chandigarh. (Categorical Photograph)

At the age of 11 years, when most youngsters are afraid to even assume of stepping on the stage, Sreya PR made her arangetram, the debut onstage efficiency of a scholar of Indian classical dance and music. That was in 2011. Educated within the classical dance type of Bharatanatyam, Sreya, now 18 years previous, still remembers the resonance of the ghungroos on that day. “It’s like being a new person when you are dancing. There are no inhibitions. The stage is yours and you are the character that drives the narrative,” says the New Delhi-based BCom Honours scholar, who additionally teaches Bharatanatyam at a dance faculty in Alaknanda within the metropolis. “I still have a long way to go,” she says.

India has all the time had a wealthy custom of classical dance, or shastriya nritya (written and compiled underneath Natya Shastra, the foundational textual content for Indian classical dance forms). The origin of dance in India, in reality, may be traced again to 200 BC. Presently, nevertheless, the Sangeet Natak Akademi (the national-level academy for performing arts arrange by the federal government) confers classical standing to eight Indian classical dance types: Bharatanatyam (Tamil Nadu), Kathak (north, west and central India), Kathakali (Kerala), Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh), Odissi (Odisha), Manipuri (Manipur), Mohiniyattam (Kerala) and Sattriya (Assam).

Artists carry out Kuchipudi (Categorical photograph)
Artists carry out Odissi (Categorical photograph)

The recognition of these dance forms may be gauged from the truth that not simply Indians, however many western artistes, too, have, through the years, travelled to India to coach in them. Take, for occasion, 50-year-old theatre artiste Ileana Citaristi who, in 1979, flew right down to India together with her mother and father from Bergamo, Italy, to study the varied Indian dance forms. Solely 11 years previous then, Citaristi fell so in love with Indian classical dance forms, particularly Odissi, that she by no means took the flight again residence. “I never thought I would stay here for so long. Initially, I started with Kathakali and then switched to Odissi. I fell in love with it… Since then, I have never looked back. Time has flown by,” narrates Bhubaneshwar-based Citaristi. After learning Odissi beneath Kelucharan Mohapatra, a legendary Indian classical dancer typically referred to as the daddy of Odissi, Citaristi established her personal dance faculty in Bhubaneshwar in 1994 and based Artwork Imaginative and prescient (a multidisciplinary arts academy) in 1996 additionally in Bhubaneswar. In 2006, she turned the primary dancer of overseas descent to be conferred the Padma Shri for her contribution to Odissi.

Italian-born classical dancer Ileana Citaristi was conferred the Padma Shri for her contribution to Odissi in 2006 (Categorical photograph)

Sreya and Citaristi might have totally different nationalities and tongues, and could also be separated by a era, however each are united by their widespread love and keenness for Indian classical dance. So what’s it that makes these dance forms as engaging and interesting for a 50-year-old as for an 18-year-old? The reply lies in innovation. At a time when there’s a huge demand and urge for food for western modern and fusion dances, Indian classical dance forms are innovating to remain in tune with the occasions to stay related in modern occasions.

New dimensions
Through the years, classical dance forms in India have undergone multilayered evolution, surviving the onslaught of time and cultural shifts, whereas additionally scaling new heights. Traces of this improvement could be discovered from historic evidences. Earlier than the Mughal invasion, for occasion, the forms of classical dances that have been carried out in courts spoke of a totally different society. After the institution of the Mughal dynasty, grandeur turned a vital component in such dance forms.

New Delhi-based Sonal Mansingh, a famend Bharatanatyam and Odissi dancer, believes practices, customs and ideas bear sluggish however steady change. “The change generally harks back to the days of Bharat Muni’s Natya Shastra,” the 73-year-old says, including, “The techniques of dance, music, instruments, etc, have surely undergone change, but not as stark as, say, in Europe, which suffered many upheavals, including two World Wars.”

What Mansingh states may be seen by means of the rise and fall of Lindy Hop (a type of African-American vernacular dance type) and Expressionist Dance (a extra fluidic dance type throughout Europe competing towards the normal ballet). World Warfare II, the truth is, could be seen as an inflection level for each these dance forms. Expressionist Dance flourished until the warfare, however after issues returned to normalcy, it vanished from the dance circuit, particularly in central Europe. Lindy Hop additionally garnered a justifiable share of consideration through the pre-war period, however because the conflict ended, it virtually misplaced its appeal solely to seek out small point out in different dance forms afterward.

Dance, like another artwork type, is a manifestation of society and its narratives. Whereas it represented the trickling down of nationalism through the 1920s and 30s, immediately, it’d speak concerning the rising chaos in city areas or growing crimes towards ladies. The power of dance to showcase the frailties of society by means of totally different instruments resembling facial expressions, costumes and rhythm has been its largest power. “Around 20 years back, I did my first show on women and war. It was my first commissioned programme. Everyone is living in a society full of stress and problems. So an artiste can’t not be sensitive to it. Through art, we all try to address social issues. Some people do it more, some less. It’s a personal choice,” explains 56-year-old Geeta Chandran, a Delhi-based Bharatanatyam dancer.

New Delhi-based Bharti Shivaji, a famend Mohiniyattam dancer, agrees: “Earlier, society faced different sets of challenges such as hunger, poverty, etc. We were a poor nation back then. At that time, our dance used to reflect the economic conditions of farmers, etc. The mudras were much more fluid, resonating with the downtrodden.”

Speaking concerning the impact of modern points on dance forms, New Delhi-based Vani Bhalla Pahwa, one of Shivaji’s college students, says, “Society today is plagued with instances of mob violence, rape, scams, etc. This brings in more rage and intensity in our dance forms. The facial expressions, too, change drastically. It has to be depicted in accordance with how people conceive such issues.”

One other key issue that has stored these dance forms alive and kicking is the power of the performers to innovate inside the dance type, which not solely prevents redundancy, but in addition provides new dimensions to the artwork. No one maybe understands this higher than Odissi dancer Ratikant Mohapatra. Born to the legendary Kelucharan Mohapatra, Odissi ran within the blood of Mohapatra, however it additionally introduced in challenges in phrases of legacy and heritage. “Odissi is a heritage not only for the state, but for India as well. My father was my guru. I learned and worked with him for 35 years, but after his demise in 2004, I came to a crossroads. Either I could have continued working that way or found something deeper within. I chose the latter. I researched and came up with new variations within Odissi and have achieved success in doing so. It is distinct from what my guru taught me, but the discipline and fundamentals remain the same,” narrates 52-year-old Mohapatra.

It’s fascinating to notice that even pioneers aren’t shying away from experimenting. Perhaps that’s what is required to stop these forms from turning into out of date or perhaps innovation falls according to the pure course of development. Both method, the viewers will get one thing new to observe, expertise and study. And they’re lapping it up. At Delhi’s India Habitat Centre, classical dance performances happen across the yr, garnering audiences in truthful numbers. “The footfall has never seen a dip. People are as enthusiastic as they were 10 years back. In fact, newer and first-time viewers are also there,” reveals Vidyun Singh, director, programme, India Habitat Centre.

It’s not shocking then that famend classical dancers don’t really feel any menace from modern dance forms or the rising fascination in the direction of western dance forms. Most of this boils down to 2 main elements: the strong fundamentals of classical dance forms, and the likelihood of collaboration with modern forms. “What are these western dance forms? There is no doubt that they are good, but people who have been performing classical dance have been engaged with it for decades. The discipline and the rigour form the base. People who take up other contemporary dance forms usually make sure they learn classical dance forms first. Your base becomes extremely strong,” says New Delhi-based Kathak dancer Shovana Narayan.

So far as collaborating with different dance forms is worried, specialists opine that one must take into account that the rules and disciplines of the person dance forms shouldn’t overlap. Mohapatra believes one has to know what the viewers needs and the way they really feel in the direction of a specific dance type. “Over the years, my research and performances across the country have taught me to keep the audience first. If in a crowd of 1,000 people, 850 can’t understand what I am doing, I am failing at my job. The audience comprehends music better than dance. So if a performance has music that attracts the audience, one should keep that. One can work on their dance form, collaborate with others, but keep the basics and discipline of the dance form intact,” the Bhubaneshwar-based artiste tells Monetary Categorical.

Adapting with occasions
Regardless of all this, nevertheless, classical dance forms in India face two main hurdles. At first is the paucity of time and depreciating consideration spans of the viewers. With growing dependence on know-how and lives turning into fast-paced, Shivaji says it turns into essential for a dancer to get their level throughout in a brief quantity of time. “Earlier, the audience had time to observe each mudra, thereby getting a hold of what we wanted to say. Now, our mudras have to be quick and crisp for the message to be conveyed,” the 70-year-old says.

Gone are the times when three- or four-hour-long performances have been routine for classical dancers. “Earlier, we were trained to dance for long hours. Maybe three, four or even more. Now, we have performances that stretch a maximum of one or, at the most, two hours. For example, there used to be a time when we would express one emotion through 15-20 different mudras. Today, because of paucity of time, we express them through five or maybe 10 mudras. However, only the duration has changed, not the ethos of the dance form,” asserts Chandran.

Shedding mild on the altering state of affairs, Narayan explains the transformation within the mindset of the viewers: “When I was young, we would see people enjoy ‘conferences’ throughout the night—they were called conferences then. Time was not an issue, safety was not an issue. Today, the external environment inhibits this,” the 69-year-old says, including, “Also, the requirement of the audience has changed. Back then, they would look for different forms of identity through dance. Now, they are mature and want to watch something different.”

The second hurdle is funding. Organisers say for any classical live performance to succeed in a huge viewers, one must scale up funding. Or, as Narayan places it, “corporate social responsibility should become corporate cultural responsibility”.

Additional enunciating the necessity to shore up funding, Dinesh Singh, founder, Navrasa Duende, a Gurugram-based manufacturing home concerned in selling stay leisure and performing arts, says, “A lot of thought, skill and knowledge go into organising a classical programme. Since it’s extremely technical, the nuances have to be kept in mind. Usually, classical programmes run on a budget of Rs 15-20 lakh, but there is a serious need to increase it to at least Rs 2-3 crore. It promotes and encourages artistes as well.”

Amid all this, the youthful era comes as a beacon of hope. As increasingly more youngsters take up classical dance from a younger age, the longer term could be thought-about in protected palms. “The younger generation is fantastic. So many kids are taking up classical dance at such tender ages,” says New Delhi-based Jayant Kastuar, a famend Kathak dancer and former secretary of Sangeet Natak Akademi, including, “As long as they are guided well by their gurus and parents, we will continue to produce brilliant dancers like we have done in the past… Parents have to make sure that the Indian tradition is passed on to children. What’s better than starting from home?”

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