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Sharmistha decries lack of space for classical dance

Smriti Kak Ramachandran
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Kathak dancer Sharmistha Mukherjee decries lack of space for classical dance in cities

Sharmistha Mukherjee
Sharmistha Mukherjee

The furniture has been pushed against the walls, a freshly ironed colourful silk attire has been laid out and just as the evening sun begins to fade, the otherwise quiet apartment comes alive with music and dance. Accomplished Kathak dancer Sharmistha Mukherjee begins to weave together Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry with P.B. Shelley’s and the strains of Rabindra Sangeet with Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons .

Ms. Mukherjee, who will present her dance-drama “Rainstorm and Autumn Leaves” based on Tagore’s Borsho Shesh inspired by Shelly’s Ode to the West Wind in the Capital on Monday, is excited about her newest composition, but more concerned by the shrinking space for performing arts in cities.

“I am aware that people see me as my father’s daughter, but we have been encouraged to follow our inclinations,” she says. So its women’s issues, the state of arts and animal rights that Ms. Mukherjee, President Pranab Mukhrjee’s daughter and an “avid animal lover”, is willing to lend her voice to.

“There is literally no space for classical dance in our cities. If a dancer wants to prepare and rehearse, he/she has nowhere to go to. Cultural institutions let out space only if they are involved in the production. There are no community spaces which can be rented by performers.”

Ms. Mukherjee, who once in jest suggested “no tax for performing artists” in an open letter to her father, who was the Finance Minister then, is now worried that there will be no patrons and sponsors to keep alive India’s traditional dance forms.

“Classical dance has survived in the country only because of government patronage. Even that is limited. There is little or no private sponsorship. Classical music has survived because of the recording industry, but no one wants to pay dancers. We need intervention at the policy level.”

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