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World Dance Day 2020: Looking for Light

It is believed that when God closes a door he opens a window somewhere else. The corona pandemic did the same for the dance community. We all have been locked in our houses, not being able to perform to our heart’s content on the traditional stage If I look at the brighter side of this situation, I feel that this time was apt for me to contemplate, to get back to the basics which often is ignored. In the last month, my focus has been to build stamina and look into my technique, more than anything else. Yes, some of the shows I was supposed to perform at have been postponed but I look as a blessing in disguise to put up a much better show as and when they happen. This time has also brought me closer to my books. I have also resumed my research work.

Ananda Shankar Jayant

One of the dancers I have looked up to is Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam artiste Ananda Shankar Jayant. I have always been in awe of her presentation of Simhanandini. In a telephonic chat, the only possible medium during this lockdown, she says, the lockdown has been a blessing for her in certain ways but has also left her scared for the future of dance. She says, “The Natyarambha App that I and my student Sneha developed, has done well because we gave it open access to people. A lot of people have been using it to practice at home, which was the intention. The intention was never to replace the guru but to be a supplement. That is happening. But what worries me is that the online format might not help in performing huge items because the attention span of the viewer might not be great. You might lose your audience. I do not think one can do a varnam live on Instagram.” She confesses that online classes are not the most convenient option, in the long run, saying that it is ‘quite tiring’ as one needs to keep adjusting the camera angles and one does not get the complete view for the student.

Veteran Kathak duo Nalini and Kamalini say that they’ve used this time to bring out of the closet many of their old choreographic work, trying to revive those. “We are taking online classes to ensure our students do not miss out on practice. That is not giving us much satisfaction as regular classes where are students are in front of us. What opportunity we got through this time is that we got to go back to our old tapes and somehow retrieve those old pieces so that we can revive them. But honestly, dance is like food. You will not be able to experience the full rasa unless you are physically there to consume it.”

Nalini-Kamalini PC: Inni Singh

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Swapnokalpa Dasgupta

Life is somewhat the same for NCPA’s head of dance department- Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, who these days, is going through the archives of the NCPA to see what can be made available to the public.

She says, “All the senior dancers we have been in touch with to make videos public are excited about it. That is how we are able to reach out to people. On the teaching front, I am learning various new dynamics of dance. There are certain that can be done only one side but for the student has to be shown the opposite. In a normal class, one would turn and show it for the student to follow from behind. Here that is not possible.” Swapnakalpa is also an Odissi dancer.

Rama Vaidyanathan | PC: Inni Singh

Bharatanatyam guru Rama Vaidyanathan says it has been a good time for her as she has been able to step into the studio to practice not thinking of just rehearsals and shows. She feels this is actually a good time for young dancers. She says, “Young dancers are posting videos online. Since everyone is at home not rushing for shows or other commitments, seniors can sit in a corner of their homes and provide young artistes constructive criticism. It is a good opportunity for young dancers to reflect on what they have learnt and know where they stand.” She feels online concerts are an excellent opportunity for youngsters.


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Running the Nalanda Dance Institute in Mumbai, Bharatanatyam dancer Uma Rele and the institute are using the time to have seminars for the faculty by conducting faculty development program. On the flip side, she does say that practising online does have a downside. She says, “While it is keeping us going and practising, there is a lag while teaching. This medium has both sides but then we have to adapt to the situation and go ahead.” She hopes that social distancing is over sooner than later.

This World Dance Day might not be a usual one for the dancing community, travelling for shows, but it certainly will be remembered by everyone for the opportunity it provided to each one to work on their art and come up with new ways to keep the art alive. Dancers, especially classical dancers should be certainly proud of themselves for keeping it going despite unusual times.

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