Reality television has changed our perception of classical dance.
When we hear the word ‘dance' do we think of only hip hop, break dance, disco and bollywood dance or does classical dance have a place in our minds?
Well known Kuchipudi dancer, Vyjayanti Kashi, says: “With children and youngsters being exposed to a host of new stimuli, they are getting aware of many things. Unfortunately focus on art is lacking. Perhaps the lure of fame and money makes parents send children to learn those dance styles that are suited for reality shows rather than traditional dances.”
Does this mean reality shows drive the choice? “Parents today, not only from metros, but also smaller towns and cities want their children to be quick achievers, which reality shows promise. Unlike traditional art forms which is considered an inward journey. Fame is achieved here too but requires continuous effort, interest and patience,” Vyjayanti adds.
Another factor in the popularity of contemporary dance is Shiamak Davar's dance classes, which are tailored to suit the modern lifestyles. Danseuse Vani Ganapathy offers some hope for traditional dance forms when she says, “Today corporates prefer to support traditional art forms. When foreign delegates visit our country, they would rather watch a classical performance rather than a Bollywood jig. Also, thankfully there are children who are serious about learning Indian classical art forms. The Bollywood influence cannot be ignored. Earlier heroines such as Hema Malini, Vyjanthimala and Rekha had a knowledge of classical dance unlike today's heroines who do not have this knowledge and yet are poplar as dancing heroines.”
The perception that Bollywood-style dance is easy to learn may also be reason for children to opt for it. Most classical dance teachers are not against modern dancing styles but they do not want Gen X to forget their roots.
Rehana Firdous, a Kathak student in her late twenties says: “There is no need to hype traditional dance forms. Those who are genuinely interested will come to learn. I feel Kathak is an extension of one's soul.”
When opinions vary on the appeal and popularity of classical dance forms some changes like the concept of entertainment can be redefined. Dance can be projected as being much more than Bollywood, disco or salsa.
This shift can be kicked off by taking youngsters to classical performance and once a classical performance is made accessible, it is only a matter of time before the cool quotient of classical dance zooms straight to the stratosphere.