Dance Discourse, a series of six interactive sessions took off last week. What more than the inimitable abhinaya of Pandit Birju Maharaj and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra can one ask for, to set the ambience for an eventful evening?
An eclectic collage of rare video snippets on male dancing in India welcomed and refreshed the participants of Dance Discourse at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, last week. What more than the inimitable abhinaya of Pandit Birju Maharaj and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra can one ask for, to set the ambience for an eventful evening?
The programme organised by Ashish Mohan Khokar, scholar, editor-publisher of Attendance, was the first of a series of six interactive sessions, aiming to create a platform for the layman as well as the connoisseur. The topic for the first session was Purusha – Male Moves. The event had an all-rounded panel comprising prominent teachers, dancers, choreographers and critics, addressing questions on the current trends, patronage, role and acceptance of male dancers. Majority of opinions ruled out the discrimination between male and female, exceptional and average appearance, when it comes to Indian classical dance. “Looking like a Greek god is great on stage, but a male dancer is merited for higher aspects, since our dance is about bhava and rasa. The body is a means to an end, not ‘the' end,” said Praveen Kumar, one of the seven chosen male dancers in Attendance 2010.
From a choreographer's perspective, Madhu Natraj commented, “Masculinity is more a state of mind. The pedagogy for a male and female dancer is not completely different.”Dr. Suryaprasad, senior dance critic, admitted that he is first a rasika, who looks for nuances and subtleties in the art form, before judging them by gender or appearance. “Dance can be compared to a marriage. The equations change every seven years,” was an interesting thought thrown in by renowned dancer and teacher Padmini Ravi, who recalled Maharaja Swati Tirunal as a patron of dance, who knew the art form himself.
Ideas and idioms poured into the room from the knowledgeable panellists and the guest speakers to a relevant audience. It was not about how to dance, but about how to be accepted as a dancer in today's society. The concluding remarks by Chiranjeevi Singh, were indeed food for thought. “Classical forms are not mass forms that can be appreciated by all. Patronage and sponsorship comes by educating the representatives in the government and corporates,” he said. He pointed out that a lay person did understand many dance gestures some years back, when it existed as part of life. “Our English education is cutting us off from our cultural framework. The problem is more deep rooted,” he added.
The five forthcoming monthly sessions will address choreography, dance film-making, Odissi, abhinaya and conclude with a Male Dance Festival in December. Each session will showcase a relevant video or invite a guest performer/panellist to add specific input. “For far too long, dance has been exclusive and mystified. The objective of bringing these discussions to one platform is to de-mystify and make it inclusive,” said Ashish Khokar.