November 24, 2006
"Dance is a vital aspect of culture. It embodies the cultural experience and expression of a particular collective identity. Notions of culture, identity and history are continually reinvented through dance. Indian dance forms have emerged as an important critical lens to analyse narratives of nationalism, trans-nationalism, woman's body and postcolonial politics. Scholarly research on Indian dance forms has spanned over several disciplines like anthropology, culture studies, performance studies, art history, post-colonial and feminist studies. The symposium is an initiative to create a new network in an era of globalisation of culture," explained Pallabi.
Discussing Indian dance forms ranging from classical to the Bollywood, the symposium dwelt broadly on four different dimensions - tradition and globalisation, religion and culture, gender and sexuality, and dance and social justice.
Deliberating on tradition and globalisation during the inaugural day, dance historian Avanthi Meduri who teaches at the Roehampton University in UK, traced the historical transformation of the arangetram (debut performance) of Bharatanatyam from a sacred ritual to an expensive ceremony while Ann David, a scholar on South Asian dance practices in the UK, spoke on the complex and changing identities of British Asians as they negotiate their cultural, ethnic and religious identities through the expression of religious rituals and dance.
With several thought provoking presentations on religion and culture, the second day appeared more exciting. While the first day's deliberations dwelt more on the Indian diaspora, the second day was a focus on the Indian scenario.
Presenting a lecture-demonstration, Kathak dancer and teacher Amita Dutt of Rabindra Bharati University demonstrated how dance is viewed quite differently in India unlike in the West. Similarly, with the aid of a slide show, her colleague Sruti Bandopadhyay lucidly explained how Manipuri dance has been a lyrical manifestation of devotion.
The most meaningful deliberation, however, came from Urmimala Sarkar of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi who examined and expressed her deep concern on the sanskritisation of the indigenous dance styles by urban practitioners and encouraged by the government. She further emphasized on the urgency of an archival process to faithfully document dance traditions. "I am deeply disturbed but immensely inspired by this deliberation to make a film on the impact of sanskritisation," remarked Jossy Joseph, one of India's leading documentary filmmakers. The day's proceedings also included deliberations by the well-known dancer, choreographer and scholar Uttara Asha Coorlawala of US and Kalpana Ram of Macquaire University of Australia. Both of them spoke on the inter-cultural aspects of dance.
The concluding day had two lively deliberations on the role of gender and sexuality in Indian dance. Kolkata-based Vikram Iyengar, a young male Kathak dancer and researcher on performing arts, analysed the shifting attitude of the society towards male dancers, both from within and outside the dance community. Similarly, in their paper on dance as a familiar chord in postcolonial English drama, P Naga Suseela and P Gopi Chand, both English teachers of J K C College, Guntur in Andhra Pradesh depicted the ordeal of a male dancer in the society.
presentation came from scholar-archivist Mundoli Narayanan of Kerala who
is currently based in Japan as an assistant professor of literature. Narayanan,
whose research and documentation revolves round Kathakali, spoke on the
politics of representation in Kathakali and the rise of anti-hero Ravana
in Kathakali repertoire.
Even if resource
was the constraint (as explained to this journalist), the hosts could have
invited and involved the dance exponents of Kolkata. How could a symposium
on dance be meaningful without the dancers' community! One also regretted
the lack of any documentation of the deliberations on the plea of resource
journalist with the Indian Express group, Shyamhari Chakra is a New Delhi
based freelancer writing on dance and culture. He is building up an archive
on Odissi dance in Bhubaneswar. He is a regular contributor to narthaki.com