After my previous post on what it takes to succeed in a classical dance career, it seems to me I have put the cart before the horse. Why should one learn it in the first place?
Unless one was smitten in childhood or even later owing to some inexplicable karmic connection (as in my case) or was dragged into a class by an ambitious (or more likely overloaded) mother, why indeed would one sign up?
It appears to me that most people do things that are sort of ‘going around’ (such as horse-riding, roller-skating and abacus classes are now in India), perhaps simply out of convenience.
A lot of things with the ‘India’ tag have become ‘in’ today – meditation, yoga (yoga mats, neti pots… next they’ll sell ‘grass under tree’ online! ), Buddhism, ‘Vegan traditional/home -made’ Indian cooking and so on and so forth. Well, Indian Classical dance is ‘in’, though more so Bharathanatyam. Just search YouTube and if you know anything about Indian classical dance, I guarantee that you will feel like laughing at these confident ignoramuses commenting on legends of Kuchipudi and Odissi (from ripped CDs to boot), “this is not real traditional Indian dance” and “very poor Bharatanatyam technique”!!!
Next in popularity come the more spectacular parts of our classical forms. General audiences always applaud plate & pot dancing ( part of Kuchipudi reportoire) or dancing with lamps more than a demanding and exhausting Varnam (the central piece of a traditional Bharatanatyam performance). Competition participants know that even a fast paced Bharatanatyam or Kuchipudi Tillana will visually appear slower after a shower of Kathak chakkars. Kathak dancers’ swirling costumes arrested in motion are a favourite of the coffee table book photographers. Indeed, more coffee table books by artists themselves, classical dance based TV competitions and the recent entry of 328 Kuchipudi dancers in the Guinness World Records – all are brand images, which are increasing the popularity of the form in question.
Yes classical dance is in, but so is Salsa, Rumba, Cha Cha Cha & Jiving. Celebrity based dance Reality shows such as ‘Nach Baliye’ and ‘Jhalak Dikhlaja’ also emphasise on variety of form as equivalent to creativity. They also use pre-recorded film music, use all the glitz and glamour of the varied costumes and stage format to great effect. In the end, it is always about variety and more variety and more. But to what end?
Is this quest for more variety in everything from food to home design to viewing choices, symptomatic of a deeper need?