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Non-violence and dancers
- Madhavi Puranam, Hyderabad

October 5, 2012

"In necessary things - unity; in doubtful things - liberty; in all things - charity."

Nothing could describe more aptly the need of classical dance today, than Richard Baxter's words as quoted above.

Unity, tolerance, a healthy competition (if at all artists must compete) and above all a collective vision seems to be the need of the hour of the classical dancers/teachers/students.

Bitter rivalries between dancers and gurus which pass on through their students are not new to the minuscule world of classical dance. Dance scholars/researchers today do not see eye to eye with dancers; colleagues in dance departments at universities and institutions do not work in cooperation; and the students suffer the lack of role models in the mediocre departments. Various universities do not cooperate to work for a common vision; musicians and dancers no longer form a progressive team; the divides are too many and too deep to bridge at times.

The pursuit of the classical arts demands a rigorous discipline from the practitioners. Maybe, it also seeks from the practitioners, liberty in thought and pursuit of liberty through discovery of self.

Charity in action, word and spirit do seem to be the most needed. There are dancers past their performing prime (I seek forgiveness for sounding irreverent), reluctant to make way for their own students. They could be the visionaries who could teach and guide an entire generation. They could be the uniting force of the dance fraternity and take the art forward. Alas, they are busy frittering away their time and the wealth of their art; seeking mere visibility for their unparalleled glorious statures through mere performances on stage, which no longer scintillate.

At one national festival of dance, the inaugural celebratory dinner party for the participants and guests saw the most shocking conversations and gossips spewing venom on competitor gurus and dancers; especially after the choicest liquor was consumed. One may accept liquor as an essential on the menu, especially among the elite who are the "karta dharta" and the stars of the classical arts; but what comes as a surprise is the crass emotions of hate, jealousy, spite and insult. This is the world of performances, awards, titles and honours.

In the context of classical dance, prevalence of such emotions is more crass though. The very perpetrators of the exalted art would be guilty of what Gandhi would have termed as violence (harsh words and thoughts being equivalent to violence).

Pious mannerisms of the excessive bent of torso to exhibit utter humility, the right hand being placed repeatedly on one's heart proclaiming connection to one's very soul, pulling one's ears in reverence for elders do not impress. Dressing up in regal traditional attires and rattling of sublime verses from scriptures cannot mislead one to charitably accept the shocking behaviors as a part of the mercurial artistic temperament.

But, yes, indeed there are maestros who never require the crutch of greatness to make an ethereal impact. They just touch every heart, even that of a child or an uninformed lay spectator, that comes in the purview of their divine art into which merge their stellar personas.

(This article is courtesy:

Qualified as an MBA, MPA and also as a Kuchipudi dancer, Madhavi Puranam worked as an HRD professional and later as a guest faculty in the dance department, Hyderabad Central University. She is now working on a Senior Research Fellowship in Arts and Heritage Management, Ministry of Culture, Govt of India and is the Managing Editor, Nartanam, a journal on the classical dances of India. She writes on dance for other publications too and occasionally for The Hindu.

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