This Thing Called Culture Dance

Time to channelise kids towards art

Sibenik, June, 1983: As we land in a smiling landscape of former Yugoslavia, now part of Croatia, Yelena and Aranka, all of 15, greet our 12-member children’s theatre dance company representing India. Their hearts are full of love for learning about other cultures and in 1983, India is still exotic for them. Sibenik hosted world’s biggest children art festival then. Puppets, painting, photography, music, dance, films. A 15-day mela and melange. Over 30 countries came to this little coastal town.

When one of us takes out a swanking Walkman from the handbag, they expected us to take out a cobra and make it dance. Indian films have reinstated such myths and lore that does nothing to represent true culture.

But then what is true culture? Is it music and dance; theatre and films. Or history and heritage. Museums and monuments. Those are artefacts or artistic representation of any country and its people. India has such diversity that to speak for a large and varied population is not easy. What’s relevant in Manipur means nothing to Madras.

Be that as it may, it is time to channelise our children and youth. Come summer, parents fret what will their children do? NGMA Delhi has just opened its formidable and imposing gates to all. Art for all. Let children and parents enjoy art, paint, see, savour says its new head Adwaita Gadanayak, himself a painter. Raghvendra Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Culture, insists on ‘art for masses’; to open all cultural institutions, museums, art centres for masses, not just classes.

Chinna Kala Nadam is the only dance festival in India for kids (under 13). This festival spots and nurtures budding talents in all dance forms. Bangalore shows the way. Says organiser Murlikalva, a Kathak dancer, “Nandini Mehta and I do this to give back to the art.”

Yes, there are in the national capital or metro India several initiatives but in small town India, woefully inadequate.Stray private summer camps are available and most can be unaffordable. Then what to do? No classical form can be learnt in few weeks but SPICMACAY type organisations do undertake ‘learn from a Master at a camp’. But that can only take care of a few.

State governments must wake up and open their cultural properties to all. Why not let each locality avail it for mass dance class? Even yoga or aerobics or music or painting?

Yes, often these community centres duplicate as wedding halls at night but please force your elected local representative to authorise use for larger cultural good, not mere profits.

So many schools employ dance, music, art teachers. In summer, these talents can be utilised for neighbourhood skill development programmes.

Indian children are raring to go but are mostly directionless. Often their parents are eager too, but clueless. And art teachers are waiting for takers. How to make the twain meet?

India has so much talent but very few outlets. Slick TV shows boast India's talent but that's Bollywood version of art. Nothing wrong with these shows but most are hackneyed and lack aesthetics and make children do grown up stuff, not kids play. Culture for kids should be at their absorbtion level of innocence. Look at the awful dresses they make kids wear in these dance shows on the TV.

Those countries which have focussed on culture for kids — the former eastern block in Europe and Scandinavia with its womb to tomb welfare state model — have seen a sensitised populace and less social evils. Even America, with its rampant gun culture has some focus on an open culture model that has created a large pool of art appreciators, if not artistes. America has contributed so many genres: jazz, hip hop, break dance. They have the best museums and public art spaces. India has material and so much potential to channelise such power for social good.

Channelising youth energy is critical. Mr PM (and all CMs, even DMs), if you want India to rise and shine, catch them young. Now is the time. India has 500 million young people raring to go. Where, is a question government and society must answer. Or think, atleast. It all begins with an idea.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 5:38:35 PM |

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