Dance appears to have escaped censorship, but a very subtle form of censorship disguises itself as a performance licence
Despite what romantics might say, it is not easy to be creative. Creativity is not simply something some people are born with and some aren’t. Creativity is cultivated over many years of training, learning, and experiencing. In other words, it is not an easy task to create something good and meaningful even in the best of circumstances. However, the best of circumstances don’t always present themselves at opportune or frequent moments in time. In fact, many an artist will tell you that the revelations regarding a creative piece of work came at a decidedly inopportune or inconvenient moment!
Moreover, there are certain factors in the art world that make the creation of dance (and indeed other forms of art) even more difficult. One is undoubtedly the lack of inspiration. Inspiration can be thwarted by internal factors such as emotional distress or laziness to actually do the hard work that creativity requires, or to go out there and get exposed to other people’s work – in order to draw inspiration from it. Inspiration can equally be diminished by external factors such as the apparent celebration of mediocrity, which may cause disheartening and discouragement; a lack of guidance in the form of a mentor, teacher or colleagues; and the economic factor – which in many ways limits creativity.
Let me explain this further. Money, I think, is the second factor worth mentioning that kills creativity. Of course, this is not unconditionally true. An art-funding body that approves funding for a choreographer’s work can be of immeasurable help to the choreographer because it helps him or her to be able to focus only on creating the work, rather than searching for funding. But there is a flipside to this as well. Work that is commissioned often has restrictions imposed on it by the organization that commissions it. Funds are released on the condition that content, concept, vocabulary and so on – will be determined and restricted – not by the choreographer, but by the person or organization funding the work. In that sense, it does kill creativity.
Restrictions are imposed in other ways too, and this particular one seems obvious as a killer of creativity – censorship. Of course, like all of the above factors, this one is also not an absolute evil. Censorship exists in an ideal world for good and important reasons. But sometimes, it does contribute to the bloodless murder of creative potential.
Censorship doesn’t happen in the world of dance very publicly as it does in some other spheres of art – Kamal Haasan’s ‘Vishwaroopam’ and Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ are quite openly censored by society. Dance appears to have escaped that censorship but perhaps that is only the case because the world of dance is less in the public eye than Haasan or Rushdie. Censorship does occasionally threaten to kill creativity amongst dancers. Mallika Sarabhai, a dancer and activist in Gujarat, has faced ‘censorship’ of sorts for having viewpoints that didn’t fit well with people in power. On a more ‘aam aadmi’ level, the police now imposes restrictions on dancers who wish to perform publicly. Of course, the banning of live music (which had a profoundly devastating impact on local musicians and bands) in Bangalore as well as the banning of dancing in pubs has caught quite a lot of media attention a few years ago. But even for ‘serious performers of dance’ in India, a very subtle form of censorship disguises itself as a ‘performance licence’. Amongst several things that the performer has to agree not to do, the vague statements could potentially restrict the freedom of any kind of creative expression – the performance must not have “any impropriety of language”, “indecency of dress, dance, movement or gesture”, or “anything likely to excite feelings of sedition or political discontent”. The basis on which impropriety or indecency, or in fact, the expression of political discontent is to be measured is not mentioned anywhere, potentially limiting the creative freedom of a dancer to speak, dance, or dress a certain way.
So, when the best of circumstances do not present themselves to a creative person, these killers of creativity make the creation of art an even more difficult task than it was to begin with.