Four young dancers on the art they love.
They are tired of hearing that the young generation is not interested in classical arts. They are dreamy and specific by turns. Neither doormats nor bullies, neither weighed down by tradition nor afraid of change, today's young aspiring classical dancers are often amused at the pessimistic ways of their elders. Here, four young dancers — Sumelika Bhattacharya and Supriya Nayak, both disciples of eminent Odissi dancer Kiran Segal, and V. Pavithra and Uma Ranganathan, disciples of renowned Bharatanatyam dancer Jayalakshmi Eshwar — offer their take on the place of Indian classical dance in aspirational India. Snatches from a conversation with the foursome:
Their generation and classical dance
Uma: Our generation is open to everything: We admire classical as much as we admire Western (popular arts).
Sumelika: I don't think the Indian arts are being taken over by the ‘forces' as someone described it to us!
Supriya: Once we went to present a programme with our guru, and the organiser kept talking about how the new generation is just not interested in classical dance, in front of all of us (students)!
Sumelika: I don't think there is an apocalypse round the corner. Also, when we look at history, classical arts were never meant for the masses. It was more for a select audience. I think it will always be (popular) in a selective way.
Uma: Just because on TV they see more of western arts, they think everybody is only interested in that. We did an opinion poll in college and we saw people do want to watch classical arts. Classical dance is like yoga. You don't really have to be a professional to dance. We need to promote the idea that everybody can.
Pavithra: The CBSE has done a really good thing by including music and dance in the curriculum.
On Parental support
Uma: I think elders need to think seriously about what they pose as priorities.
Pavithra: But there are a lot of ‘modern' parents who allow us to take our decisions. My dad is very relaxed now.
Sumelika: If it were more a financially secure profession, I thing more people would go for it.
Pavithra: I want to work alongside. I want to be very independent.
Uma: These days dignity is also about financial independence.
Pavithra: You can teach (dance), but you can do a lot of R&D too.
Uma: Like in the West, there is a lot of dance therapy. We should have more group works in classical dance, to give dancers and choreographers a chance. Also, they can author books.
Sumelika: At least if we had a system where all dancers were graded…but even then there is so much corruption. If we could have a more transparent system…
Supriya: There is a fair degree of nepotism. People have to see more good work.
Sumelika: The State should educate the audience.
Uma: My longer term goal is to integrate performing arts and therapy: as a relief from depression and anxiety, to induce positive emotions and substitute aggression with these arts. I read on the Internet that Tatta adavus bring down aggression. We need to invest in research, which I really want to do.
Supriya: I think we have to know our time and not be in a hurry. Sumelika and I have learnt for 15 years and people say, “You must have learnt everything,” but we know we haven't! I think it's a responsibility in itself to learn it well and then think what you can do with that knowledge.
Sumelika: To create a discerning audience. Even if one person teaches it to one child….