One might wonder whether this was the competition that had sparked off heated debates between judges and parents of participants in the past. After a long time, the Bharatanatyam event at the State School Kalotsavam being held in Kochi presented a different picture.

The backstage was not swarming with parents and dance teachers. Participants entered the stage without the company of percussionists. There was no time lag in between each performance. And most of the participants went in with a smiling face.

Despite serious differences, majority of parents believe that the new manual has brought in rapid changes in the nature of youth festivals in the State. "For instance, the use of CDs has drastically cut down the time required for staging a dance event like Bharatanatyam," says Balakrishnan from Kannur whose son is participating in the event.

For those making it to the final round, the use of CDs has helped in reducing the expense compared to last year. The decision to do away with live accompaniment has brought relief to the parents, he says. "The cost for travel, accommodation and food for the percussionists was huge earlier. An advantage of the CD is that it can be used again in the festival to be held next year," he adds.

But Pramod Das, a dance teacher whose disciples have come from districts like Malappuram and Palakkad, believes that 95 per cent of the artistes still vote for a live accompaniment for a dance event. "While on stage, I could have helped a student if he commits a mistake during the performance. With a CD playing, there is no chance for extending any such help."

Most of the dance teachers point out that the tension experienced by parents and teachers has come down this year. "Earlier, we used to receive several calls from parents saying that their children would not enter the stage without seeing us," says Mr. Das. Compared to a live accompaniment, parents like Anilkumar believe that they can save up to Rs.5,000 by recording a CD in a studio. "This could be achieved only if my son is making it to the State festival after going through the district-level rounds. For a student who fails to make it beyond the revenue district, recording a CD will be a loss," he adds.

G. K.