Social Media and Dance
- Archis Abhay Kulkarni
February 21, 2019
(First winner in the junior category in the 'Nrutya Shabda' essay writing competition conducted by Neha Muthiyan's Loud Applause and Swarada Dhekane's Samvaad blog)
Just yesterday, I was browsing on YOU TUBE, when one video caught my attention. It included a "Bharatanatyam Fusion Dance" on the famous pop song "The Shape of You". When I glanced to check the number of views, lo and behold - One Million!! And surprisingly the views included not only Bharatanatyam learners or lovers, but people from diverse fields across different states and countries! This got me thinking on how wide and crucial the impact of social media is on various facets of dance including of course, the Indian classical dance.
I remember, just a few years back, when our teacher used to recommend us to watch a few dance performances, it put us into frenzy to search for the show timings. And alas, it wasn't a google search! We used to flip through various newspapers for a week or so, hopeful of finding the desired article or an advertisement. However now with a click of a button (or should I say touch?) we are able to browse through various show timings, venues and associated write ups. And gone are the waits in the long queue for the tickets, for we can buy them online with our choice of seats. The coordination among friends? Good bye text messages, and hello DMs and WhatsApp messages!
Nowadays, social media is ruled by hashtags. I read in an article that Twitter was the first social medium platform to create the hashtags. By simply adding "#dance" to the end of tweets, you can access a large community of Twitter (or other social media sites) that would include dancers, dance lovers and critics.
In fact, dance education and learning, which is the next level in the overall dance gambit, is completely revolutionized due to the advent of social media. I remember, when my mom used to chat with another parent, the conversation would be somewhat like this.
Mom: Hi. You know, my daughter has started learning Bharatanatyam!
Parent: Wow! Which Academy?
Mom: At xyz Institute!
Parent: Oh yes. I have heard a lot about the institute…
and so on…
Yet today, there are so many students who learn the dance styles online through Skype or YouTube. These students are mostly staying in hostels or are NRIs, who have a keen interest in learning dance styles but simply lack the time or resources for the physical coaching. This has been a boon for the dancers' community as it has broadened the knowledge and awareness about the classical dance among the common people and dancers alike. For example, in Pune, only a few institutes teach Kuchipudi. So, if I am interested in learning the basics of the style, I can simply take some basic lessons on YouTube to grasp the technique from the experts. Obviously, this helps only in refinement and is in no way, a direct replacement of training by the Gurus.
Social media has opened the doors to access and savour the performances of legendary dancers, which would also help the dancers in sharpening their skills. Through Webinars, one can interact with experts to learn the finer aspects. With social platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc., the publicity is easier, quicker and far reaching, be it a simple post or an event invitation. This results in boosting the ticket sales and provides a great opportunity for the young and upcoming talent to showcase their skills in front of a wider audience.
However, as every coin has two sides, social media can have an undesirable impact too. Some fake viral videos may portray a certain dance style in a wrong way due to either a mistake or with a malicious intent. Sometimes people associate dance styles with the costumes. If they see a dancer in a traditional fanned costume, they assume the dance style to be Bharatanatyam. But ironically, so many other Indian dance styles use costumes having fans. Also, in today's fast world, the youth is ready to watch the short, sweet Instagram clips, but sitting through 3-hour performances? No, thank you! However, the classical dance styles are not only about costumes, make up or the 'aesthetics' but also depict technique, finesse, perfection and emotions. However, these elements being abstract, they do not always reach the audience in their true sense.
Another risk is blind imitation of complex choreographies without training and guidance. This may lead to injuries and health hazards. This would also be detrimental to the true artistic spirit behind any classical dance style.
The cyber bullying leads to adverse and objectional commenting against a performer or a group of performers. This is not only insulting but can lead to a deep emotional setback to an individual or a group of individuals.
True, we need to be socially and digitally connected in today's world. However, a bit of caution and a bit of wisdom coupled with adequate security measures can make these digital platforms interesting, beneficial and safer and we can leverage them to our advantage. For example, 'Indian Raga' is a Boston based education start up. Its main mission is to provide authentic education in the arts and it offers scholarships as well as a huge platform for aspiring artists. Its main stand out feature is its modern view on the traditional arts. And one of the reasons for this organization to become so successful is…yes, you guessed right! - SOCIAL MEDIA! Indian Raga has thousands following on all social media platforms with the numbers constantly growing. This is an example of the positive use of social media for progress and growth.
In conclusion, dance is a sacred art that must be loved and respected by being socially and digitally responsible!
Archis Kulkarni currently studying in class 11 has been learning Bharatanatyam for the past 8 years at Kalavardhini Nrityashala, Pune.
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