April 27, 2006

Dancing tracks

At last, I've found the time to blog ! The past one week has been particularly crazy.....working in a newspaper can be weird at times....when you are sent out to cover events that never make the news and you wonder why you wasted a good afternoon's sleep.

I went to Nrityagram again, last Sunday, this time by bus, and then, I had quite a bit of an adevnture. It was pure fun and very safe. I didn't really see what was dangerous about it.

Aprt from that, I attended a dance programme, the 10th anniversary of Natya STEM Dance Kampni and their celebrations for World Dance Day. Their works were pretty interesting, good concepts and all. They had a collaborative effort with painter Raghava KK, where he painted on-stage with the dancers. But....their very first piece, a Kathak duet by Aparna Kolar and Madhu Nataraj Heri, didn't seem very synchronised and didn't flow the way I expected it to.

I don't like to mince my words and I'm going to take the risk of saying that Bangalore rhas no good Odissi dancers (Nrityagram is brilliant, and that is WAY ABOVE GOOD !!!). Apart from NG, there are just two of them, and both of them try to outdo each other in terms of bad taste and no sense of aesthetics and horrendous movement. NG is on tour for around 6 months of the year, and it seems when these people have to call an Odissi performer, they have to resort to one of the two. So, they have something like a monopoly out here. They do not care for adequate oractice and proper presentation because they know they will be called anyway.

Let me go into the details. The first dancer's performance had costumes in all colours that clashed horribly with each other. The troupe was very unsure about the movements. They were not even technically perfect. Their basic postures could have done with a lot of shaping-up. During the mangalacharan, the dancers couldn't even sit in chowk properly. I still remember how I almost cried when this dancer performed to the Oriya song Ahenilo sohilo by Salbeg, which generally moves me to tears. Only here, I wanted to cry because she was mutilating the song very badly.

The second performance I saw was a solo, Dasavatara to be precise. When the dancer strode onto stage like a general at war, to announce her performance, I knew what was coming. She had absolutely no sense of timing, and did not pay any attention to presentation. She just came and plonked her butt on stage and started off. Her hair, ok, now Jhelumtai has curly hair which is generally all over the place, but she still manages to make it FLAT when she's dancing. This chick had very manageable hair that looked like it had not been washed in decades. Oiling it a little would have made it much more decent-looking. Her pallu was draped in this very weird manner......costume wearing is always this big point of contention for me, I can't stand people who do not wear a costume properly. Her tribhanga was far from perfect, and at the risk of sounding immodest, I can say that the tribhangas of me and the rest of my friends are way better. She did not sit in chowk for certain sequences, she was very miserly in her use of kajal, her pushpachuda really looked undernourished and starved.....all the flowers twisted and lots of holes in between.

It is sad, really sad, that so many good dancers never get the opportunity to get their due, and sub-standard dancers like these come up and do very well. I have nothing against these dancers, but I don't see why they should take advantage of the situation and absolutely refrain from polishing themselves.

One more thing - that day, a dancer just told me how the 'visibility' in Bombay and Delhi is good. I had a good laugh while telling her the hard facts. The Bangalore audience is very appreciative of classical dance, and programmes never go unattended. Most of all, people behave themselves during the performance. The publicity also seems to be good...but that may also be because I'm working with a paper and end up hearing about everything. In Bombay, one hardly hears of performances, it is just plays and movies all the way. I have seen prominent 'well-behaved' members of society walk out in the middle of performances at NCPA's experimental theatre, if I got the name right, since it is impossible to walk out of there without walking on the stage. When Leesa Mohanty and Durga Charan Ranbir ji performed in Bombay, the audience started hooting 'sari giri', ( the sari has fallen down) when Leesadi's unstitched sari looked like it was about to unravel. I sat night after night and watched performances by maestros like Kanak Rele and Gangadhar Pradhan go practically unattended during the Sur Singar Samsad fest.So much for the visibility in Bombay...

Bollywood Hungama Odissi Ishtyle has received a lot of attention lately. I've been talking to various dancers in Bangalore about it. Many of them appreciated Jhelumtai's foray into Bollywood ( pun unintended !), but one of them was very upset that a dancer of her stature resorted to something like this. The person in question felt it was very unaesthetic to mix Bollywood and Odissi. We could not have a proper argument since she kept saying I was defensive because the work of my Guru was in question. It was not really a subjective thing on my part, if I don't like something and even if someone I directly interact with is responsible for that, I would say so. But, in this case, I loved the idea of Bollywood Odissi and I thought it was simply brilliant. And after all, who defines what is aesthetic and what is not? Aesthetics are something that depend on an individual's perception and are not a set of rules that say what is innovative and what is not. Or what is 'fusion' and what is a 'mess'.

I've also heard dancers who indulge in the 'contemporary' monkey business (well, I am not against contemporary dance, but I'm just waiting to see how far dancers take their pretentiousness). Anyway, these dancers talk about how their contemporary work comes from the heart, is full of truth and passion and other such flowerily ludicrous things, and also about how other dancers just thing jumping around in a different costume and mixing a few movements here and there is contemporary. I mean, if it is all about the heart, then it is possible that jumping around in a different costume touches someone's heart, while someone else loves somersaulting on stage, while someone else takes 25 minutes to come out from intense position to the next while one person sweeps the stage with flowing costumes that seem to be ads for cleanliness and civic sense, and so on.

Point is, every single dancer worth the d in the 'dancer' has his or her own ideas on what is beautiful and divine and so on. I don't think this science of speculation should be codified and given a repertoire to go with it. One can experiment, praise or pan. But that's about it. When people begin defining the world code for aesthetics, it gets to me.


ipsita said...

ranjie, ur writing is brilliant...write a book...ull show the kaavya vishwanathans of the world who the real one is... really..more( word) power to u

Ranjana said...

This was just what I sound like when some overpretentious dancers come and tell me they're here to save the world. The rest of the dirt I'll give u when I'm back !

If ur talking abt the Hindu articles, thnx :)