Dance

Immortal art, mortal artistes

Bharathanatyam exponent T. Balasaraswathi.

Bharathanatyam exponent T. Balasaraswathi.  

Passion and talent notwithstanding, senior artistes should be able to realise if age is affecting the quality of their performance.

It’s a common myth that music has no age and dance is definitely bound by your years. Both these classical art forms are in themselves ageless; it is the practitioners of these arts who are constrained by age. But there are certain limitations in dance that may not be there in music, at least as far as public performances are concerned.

“There is no denying that dance is a visual art, which in turn stipulates a good figure and physical stamina. In the same breath, one can say that there is no age limit on dance if the dancer is extremely good at the subject; say someone like Balasaraswati who excelled with experience and could put across her dance in the most exquisite terms; looks and age hardly had their toll on her. But then, that’s one in a million. A graceful exit is most welcome both to the audience and to oneself. Music is a class by itself. But as age progresses for a vocalist, the voice gets into problems. You cannot go against God and nature; it takes away certain assets with time,” says guru Hemamalini Arni, adept in Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam.

“You should not hanker for concerts when you are able to detect changes in your pitch level (sruti). I have been a regular performer for ages both on stage and an A grade artiste on the All-India Radio. The voice, mostly with women singers is bound to give way as we age. The day I felt my pitch is not able to linger on the Panchamam for long, I decided to call it a day though AIR insisted that I continue to be their staff artiste and give them a recording now and then. Vocal chords do get disrupted through constant singing; with the best of vocalists, you can detect the tremor in tone when they age. They may be great scholars but a stage performance needs to be perfect blend of tone and tenor along with vidwat (scholarship),” feels T.T. Sita, veteran Carnatic vocalist.

Continuing the discussion on music being limited by age, Komanduri Seshadri puts it across lucidly: “While the ‘pitch fall’ as we term it, is faster and more common with women vocalists, it is hardly felt with male musicians, a reason why men have a longer tenure as vocalists as against women. But then the tone and timbre is no longer the same as in youth and this is true irrespective of gender. The vocal chords do not cooperate on higher octaves; a typical case of mind versus body. Of course, exceptions are always there. Generally the veteran vidwans slow down on their earlier brighas and also choose to elucidate ragas that are not demanding on the higher octaves, like for instance the Panthuvarali. As such, I would also like to add that Carnatic music doesn’t lay emphasis on tonal quality or melody of the vocalist unlike Hindustani where voice perfection is mandatory. We believe in listening to music not to voice as one vidwan puts it. It is not as if instrumentalists are forever the same perfect selves either. There are other pitfalls like not being able to touch the range that they once did, due to catching up with age.”

An Otolaryngologist (ENT specialist) slams the nail on the head when he pronounces, “A vocal over-doer, in time, may develop vocal nodules. It may take many years for them to enlarge but eventually they are bound to cause problems of the throat.”

“The angular bending of the knees constantly in dance will wear out the ligament with age, since knees and legs are not meant to angle themselves in totally opposing directions. This doesn’t mean that classical dance is a health hazard. The body calls for a stop to physical exertion, it’s for us to pay attention to that mild signal and not drag the machine to its breaking point,” suggests orthopaedician Dr. Suresh Kumar succintly.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 3:03:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/Immortal-art-mortal-artistes/article13999466.ece

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