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Dancing the distractions: In a lighter vein
- Bhavanvitha Venkatesh

February 17, 2018

The pleasant experience of attending a classical dance performance has a lot to do with the presentation. It includes the lighting, sound effects, the stage setting and so on. Stage setting is an art by itself and elevates the experience of a performance as demonstrated in the Natya Kala Conference at Krishna Gana Sabha during December 2017.

Classical dance performances are about proper ambience, conduct and organizing. Artists can give their best when their concentration is allowed to peak. In the movie Sankarabharanam we are shown how the classical musician Sankara Sastry played by JV Somayajulu leaves the stage when he finds a politician creating disturbance by dragging a chair and getting into conversation with others in the front row.

Many years back, a similar distraction caused Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia losing his concentration during his flute recital in The Music Academy. Coming to the point these days it is getting increasingly clear that the aesthetic sense in the presentation is slowly getting lost. Often the classical dance performances are surrounded by chaos and distraction, noise and movements in front of the stage. From the rasika’s point too, you can't but get distracted with people walking right in front of the stage all through the program and just when you feel comfortable even with it, there is that unpunctual Chief Guest arriving and thereafter all hell breaks loose.

The dancers have a tough task too… not to get distracted in the midst of transcending abhinaya, they instead are forced to gaze at these movements and forced to abandon their nayaka and struggle to regain their composure. I recently came across a dancer posting the unnoticed photographer behind capturing her pictures!! 

So, how often does one get to encounter such noisy scenes? Except for some venues and stages, most of the sabhas especially in smaller towns and cities experience this turbulence right after the recital commences. The very organizers join this brigade knowing that dancers do not dare to question them.

With facebook enabling going "live" coverage of everything and anything, we even have some "net-worthy" individuals focusing their smart phones to live stream the performance instead of enjoying the show. Unless organizers take the initiative and do something, classical dancers would have to live with performing in fish-market like situations. The least that they can do is to ensure that the place in front of the stage and the first few rows are kept clear of such movements. Else it is "Brochevarevarura.."

This is an article written in a lighter vein and it doesn't necessarily mean that there are no exceptions. Some sabhas take classical dance performances seriously and ensure the experience of attending the recitals and concerts is maintained at the highest standard both to the attendees and to the artists.

Bhavanvitha Venkatesh is a Kuchipudi dancer and writer.

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