How art continues to heal and connect in the time COVID-19

A dancer wearing a mask frames the Colosseum, in the background, that has been closed in Rome

A dancer wearing a mask frames the Colosseum, in the background, that has been closed in Rome   | Photo Credit: Alfredo Falcone

Auditoriums have fallen silent with music festivals and dance performances across the globe being cancelled

What is the one thing that never fails to soothe the mind and body during a calamity? It’s not hard to guess. Of course Art. It has once again emerged as a healer and also as a weapon to spread awareness about corona virus that has been causing illness and death across the world.

Dancers and musicians have not only cancelled shows, many of them have also joined hands with authorities in reaching out messages to people on how to cope with the virus.

Vietnamese lyricist Khac Hung’s song ‘Jealous Coronavirus’, based on the V-pop superhit ‘Ghen’ (means jealous in Vietnamese) tells people to wash hands, not touch their faces and avoid large crowds. After the song took Internet by storm, Vietnamese dancer Quang Dang choreographed moves for the hand wash routine in a viral video.

In Italy, which is under heavy lockdown, people have found a way out to beat boredom during self-isolation by singing and making music in the balconies of their houses. Videos posted from Turin, Naples, Siena and more show music is a great way to raise the spirits during tough times.

A widely shared video shows doctors and nurses in Iran, one of the worst hit countries, dancing in protective medical gear to keep patients' morale up, with some of them posting videos of dancing for quarantined patients.

Well-known dancer-choroegrapher Anita Ratnam recently posted a ‘20-second konnakol handwash’ on her Facebook. Aptly illustrated, it starts with TaDiTa as you place your hands under the pipe and ends with ‘Ta’ as you wipe the hands dry.

“We look at art usually from the entertainment point of view, it is during such trying times that we realise its true purpose of connecting souls and bringing succour when little else can. I am a great believer in the power of art. It can inspire, transform, protect and guide. From Tyagaraja to Beethovan, the best works of all great composers and most artistes have emerged out of adversity,” says U.S.-based veena exponent Saraswathi Ranganathan.

While major music and dance events, including The Coechella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held in California, have been postponed, Broadway shows in New York have been cancelled (playbill.com lists 15 plays and musicals you can watch on stage from home). In India, artistes and organisers have called off concerts. Mumbai-based National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in Delhi, Rangashankara in Bengaluru, Ravindra Bharati in Hyderabad and The Music Academy and Hamsadhwani in Chennai have cancelled performances to encourage social distancing.

NCPA, however, has planned to take the performing arts to patrons in the safety of their homes. The social media pages of the organisation will be updated with videos of its popular ‘Meet the Maestro’ series in Indian music, lecture–demonstrations in diverse genres, dance workshops, Symphony Orchestra of India season highlights, etc.

French classical violinist Renaud Capucon performing with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra at a closed-door concert in Laussane. The concert was broadcasted on radio and TV.

French classical violinist Renaud Capucon performing with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra at a closed-door concert in Laussane. The concert was broadcasted on radio and TV.   | Photo Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI

Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas’s Drishtikon Dance Company has suspended classes. “We have also stopped online classes since it will require artistes to travel to the studio,” says Aditi.

“Learners can rehearse at home. More importantly, they could use the time to read and find their connect with dance. Most often in the frenzied schedule of classes and performances, we forget to look at aspects that are significant to the art and its practitioner,” she adds.

Writer Jennifer Stahl has come up with a timely story on how to keep your technique sharp from home with a list of online classes. Meanwhile, six star ballet dancers have decided to conduct classes via Instagram and Facebook. In India too some dancers like Bharatanatyam dancer-choreographer Ananda Shankar Jayant are offering online coaching.

There are more options to make the best use of this ‘no show’ phase. Pointemagazine.com tells, ‘Where to Stream Your Favourite Ballet Flicks’. Click on it to watch the best films on dance. It includes the classic, The Red Shoes, which was made in 1948 and tells the story of budding star Vicky Page, who has to choose between dance and her love for a young composer. The film stars British Ballerina Moira Shearer and features Red Shoes Ballet, choreographed by Robert Helpmann. You could also watch Center Stage, which is about how a group of dancers at the American Ballet Academy pursue their professional dreams, Billy Eliot shows the challenges faced by a boy dancer, The Turning Point is packed with world-class dancing and Black Swan focuses on the dark side of ballet.

“Dancers are resilient,” says celebrated London-based choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh. “They will exercise, eat well and keep their immune system strong, like everyone else. As for myself, I am not complaining about the lockdown. The lack of pressing deadlines for a change feels good. I hope things will be fine soon as I hope to premiere my next big production in September.”

Saraswathi, who is working with fellow musicians on e-concerts, says that authorities in Chicago are coming up with ways to offer temporary assistance to artistes who have incurred losses due to cancelled performances.

With the most-looked-forward to SXSW (South by Southwest) music festival, held annually in Austin, getting cancelled, organisers have urged music-lovers to support up-and-coming musicians who were supposed to perform by buying their music online and spreading a word about them on social media.

“Audience will get a refund on tickets, it’s the artistes who suffer from cancellations. But we need to be sensitive to this unprecedented situation,” points out dancer Rukmini Vijayakumar, who has now found comfort in yoga.

“Feeling Calm”, says Ananda Shankar Jayant’s on Facebook. While her post reads thus: “Where’s the time? Our usual litany. Now we have it...loads of time! Lets use it wisely”.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:16:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/how-art-continues-to-heal-and-connect-in-the-time-covid-19/article31099428.ece

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