Our role in conservation of Indian culture and performing arts
- Soumyasree, Aurangabad
e-mail: devmudraa@yahoo.in

January 10, 2011

It is high time we took some serious decision regarding these so called dance competitions on television that they call Indian dance competitions but when any dance enthusiast with Indian dance background goes to participate in these competitions on TV and on stage, he is not selected and rejected. It's an insult to Indian culture and arts.

The respected learned judges supposed to be Indians talk as if they are alien to their culture and only talk about foreign dance styles which barely take three months to master and our Indian classical dances take six to ten years to just learn the art form. So where do we stand? Should we allow our children and young generation to forget our culture and go after these so called latest dance forms because they don't get a standing anywhere in these competitions because of their classical background?

It's our plea to all schools to introduce Indian dance and music in their school curriculum and make a strong base for all children to learn their roots and culture. It's a pity that once upon a time there was a special slot for classical dance and music programs on Doordarshan and everyone used to wait for those programs in the late evenings and Sunday mornings, but where are they now? There are hardly any shows or programs on the popular channels and prime time slots.

Poor DD Bharati programs still show age old, at least ten year old shows on dance and culture. It's high time we artistes make Indian classical dance reach all and make it audience friendly and come out with more innovative themes. Usually general audience reactions are like it must be difficult, we don't understand, it's too high brow, we don't have patience to sit through these long concerts etc. It was an encouraging scene in the Commonwealth Games inauguration and closing ceremony to see some Indian classical and folk dances.

Actually, we ourselves lack the self respect. When the foreigners come to India, they want to see authentic culture and are not interested in so called western dances which are actually Bollywood and not western. There's a wrong notion about western dance in India.

I hope we all come up with innovative ideas and promote our traditional arts. If the youth perceives, the whole nation perceives it. Organisations like Spic-Macay are doing their bit, but few attend the lecture-demonstrations and performances in colleges and other places. Where are we lacking? To some extent in some cities like Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bhubaneshwar, some still go and watch but looking at the plight of empty auditoriums for dance shows in many places saddens us.

It's a good idea to include dance in the school's regular syllabus and curriculum as introduced recently by CBSC Board, though it will take some time to implement properly. A step taken is a seed sown.



Soumyasree is a Bharatanatyam dancer/ teacher and director of the dance institute Devmudraa - a movement school, in Aurangabad.



Response

Dear Soumyasree,
All the SPIC MACAY programmes I attended in Delhi as a student were well attended, usually packed to capacity. In cities where they have managed to become a regular part of student activities, they enjoy immense popularity.

As you rightly say, dance has become highbrow, with dancers and intellectuals who can influence the younger generation too busy flaunting its divinity and esoteric value. Just introducing the subject in schools with teachers continuing to pass on half-baked ideas about dance won't help. Dance in schools needs to be more inclusive. If one begins by telling young students how difficult and highbrow an art form is, they are bound to run away from it. While there are attempts to interpret and teach dance in child-friendly ways, they are largely urban initiatives accessible only to a section of children whose parents can afford the high costs of such workshops.

Secondly, as pedagogues and sympathisers, we must also rethink the language in which we contextualize the place of dance in schools. Often, we refer to dance becoming a part of the 'mainstream' curriculum or syllabus in 'mainstream' education. When we already tend to view dance as an addition that is distinct from 'mainstream' education and not as an ignored part of the mainstream, we begin to sideline it even before we set out to achieve dance education goals.

Best,
Ranjana Dave
(Jan 27, 2011)