We need artistically oriented organisers who can make up a core team to evolve a magnificent festival that can encompass all our arts and spread its wings to reach out to cities and towns all over the State, says dancer and writer Lakshmi Viswanthan
My early experience of international arts festivals were the Edinburgh and Brighton festivals in the United Kingdom. Dancing in these two festivals was an experience beyond my own performances, impressed as I was with the infinite variety and impeccable planning. I returned to Madras and gave vent to my dreams for a Madras Festival on those lines in a then popular magazine called “Aside”. I am afraid that dream might take long to ever be a reality. I say that because it is not enough for artists alone to have a vision. We need artistically oriented organisers who can make up a core team to evolve a magnificent festival that can encompass all our arts and spread its wings to reach out to cities and towns all over the State. Professional Arts management is something that has not been understood in India. Artistic direction is a nurturing factor that has made artists, then in the West and now even in countries of the far East feel that their work is getting the right support.
Millions are spent when a sports event is hosted by a city. Do we get even decent roads for our little festival here? There seems to be a distinct divide between goverment supported arts festivals and privately sponsored ones. Cannot the two come together and plan the two or three month-long events properly and publicise it with thoughtful care? Starting with “youth” events in November, music in December and dance in January, the calendar can be evolved without confusion. The folk arts coming to the city for Pongal should be reciprocated with classical arts going to the smaller towns, temple towns, villages and so on.
New venues and rejuvenation of old venues would be a boon to the jaded concert enthusiast. We keep talking of “heritage”, but hardly initiate any new perspectives. When I danced in an old church in Amsterdam, with candle lights in the background, I could feel the audience responding in a special way. The acoustics and ambience were just superb. Why can’t we have both Carnatic and Western music concerts in some of our old Madras churches? Would it not be exotic to have young dancers perform in the bronze gallery of the Madras museum? A pithy introduction by a genuine scholar on the great sculptures and their reflection in our dances would be a lovely experience.
Kalakshetra has built a temple pond for concerts, and it is a charming venue. Should this not encourage us to have some concerts by the “kulam” in the Kandaswamy temple in George Town or the Tiruvidandai temple tank?! People in those areas would relish such an atmosphere. Old palaces in the districts can become modern day Sangeeta mahals. In fact the Tanjavur palace has been ignored as a suitable venue for music and dance performances.
Our festival of arts – the “season”, has now expanded to include innumerable events, lectures and so on. But a vision for a future which benefits artists and also the next generation needs to be evolved by a think tank of intellectuals who are deeply committed to our arts. I may dance a season in Jacobs Pillow in Boston and relish the ambience……but I would like to realise a dream festival right here.