Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guest Post: Dance. A Perspective

I admire people who are prompt and precise.
And people who fulfill their promises are just the Best!
Cute emails?? Cherry on the top!!

Thank You HADEZ for this super amazing guest post.

I love the fact that it is about that one thing that I LOVE the most...

Extremely informative and very well written...

Last month, I got fortunate enough to attend a wedding in Garhwal reigon's Burfal community. It has always been great to know how varied the cultural landscape of this country is. In this particular case, it was the dance of the community that mesmerized me. It wasn't the kind one would usually imagine. It had very simple steps, making hand gestures while moving in a circle in a group. It was amply clear why it was too simple - so that people of all ages could enjoy it. Nevertheless, it qualified well for the definition of dance.

Dance is a type of art that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, performed in many different cultures and used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting.
- wikipedia

But there a big problem with Indian dances- specially the folk dances. They are dying. Of the total 43 dance forms from all the seven cultural zones of the country, the nearly-extinct folk dances make up for nearly one-fourth. There are goods reason to believe that many of the dance forms described in Natyashastra, the ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music, written about 2000 years ago, are now non-existent. A greater problem is that while tigers can be saved by in-situ and ex-situ interventions, saving dances or cultural elements is not that easy. People are excited about the charismatic animal but not about their own culture and history ! A wrong notion carried by many in India is that only tribals used to dance, as if the rest of them descended directly from Sun and Moon, all too much civilized to have had a folk dance culture.

Last year while attending a Maratha wedding, I was expecting to be served marathi authentic food. (Getting to know the native culture has always been my real secret agenda for attending weddings.) But I was served the same dishes that I get in Delhi - shahi paneer, dal makhani et al from the usual north Indian menu. This kind of shift from authentic maratha food (which used to be served just a decade back) to commercial north Indian is the same thing thats happening to dance forms.

Culture is a dynamic part of human civilization. It will be foolish to imagine that it will stay static or continue to live forever. It evolves continuously and old dance forms give way to new ones. This more or less fits well with Darwin's survival of the fittest theory. So, if today people stop loving Bhangra of Punjab, its followers will slowly drift away for a better form. It may also happen that if somebody is not happy with a few moves, then better ones will be developed as replacement. And as the new forms gain popularity, it will slowly eclipse the original moves. This is one reason why many of the forms described in Natyashastra vanished. Actually, they evolved to form today's classical dance forms !

But this general order of demand and supply is not the only reason. India is urbanizing at a 'fast pace'. In the next 40 years, India will be the greatest contributor to urbanization of the world. 431 million people will shift to urbanscape. Growth at 'fast pace' implies that the gap between the starting salary of your grandfather and your father is and will be much less than the gap between your's and your father's, in general. When income rises rapidly in just one generation, many things do not get transferred to the next generation. The greatest sufferer are the moral and cultural elements which are considered obsolete.

At such a stage the rat race of society become more prominent. Competition rises as access to higher education becomes easier (in urban areas). As it reaches 'the cut-throat level' it becomes imperative for the youngsters to shed the excess baggage - first of all in most cases are the activities one is deeply interested in. In order to pursue what the society deems perfect, cultural elements like dance gets sacrificed. This is not intricately related to preservation of ancient heritage but this certainly impedes the process of evolution of dance forms. People living a thousand years back were also busy and they too did not dance all the time. But they had their own festivals(like harvesting) when they used to enjoy their lives, giving in to the social expression called dance. That certainly seems absent in today's rat race. The celebration of dance has been replaced by 'eating out', thanks to the consumerist culture.

But India is a land full of hopes. The dying dance forms of the country were brought to the centrestage in 2005. Folk dances like Tipri from Punjab, Goff from Goa, Dhafmuttu from Kerala, Ummattata from Karnataka, Chirutala Ramayanam from Andhra Pradesh and Periamelam from Tamil Nadu made their debut at the Republic Day National Folk Dance Festival. Uday Shanker has started modern Indian ballet. There are other well known proponents of modern dance in India also - Ram Gopal, Mrinalini Sarabhai and Chandralekha. There are many who broke out of the rat race and did something that they were interested in.

Even the consumerists remember the importance of the best exercise that there can be and are evolving new forms even if it comes without any grand names or large audience. Because anyway, "great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion." India it seems should never stop hoping positively for its cultural heritage. India it seems will never stop dancing !

:) :)

You made my day...