Promising Youth

Here is an opinion article by Leela Samson, a well-known dancer and director, Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai featured in the Hindu.

Spirit of daring


Chennai’s famed December season of music and dance showcases the talent of a number of young performers. What does this infusion of young blood hold for the future of the classical arts?

Can anyone say that young artists do not live for their art or are any less committed than their mentors?It is time to pack our bags! There is no reason to delay it in my opinion. Although the truth is harsh, yet, in the world I live in, it is true as gold.Youth in the dance scenario are taking our breath away. They are bold, ride roughshod, are rude and often do not listen to words of caution. Much of what they do may be hackneyed stuff in new packaging. It is often far too complex and clever for my liking. They are copycats and do not shy from hiding it. They are not subtle. They will steal an idea and even a theme, as it comes out of the fire from a senior dancer.

Nevertheless, for the moment they are speaking true. And there are some among them who do some original thinking as well. Luckily for us, it is still difficult to do an ‘easy take’ of a good padam!

So what are they up to? I do not meet enough of them to know and cannot speak for them all. But I have met a few who are putting all their eggs in one basket for this season’s offering and am in awe.

A flair for rhythm

The young and very talented K.S.R. Anirudha, son and scion of the renowned dancer, Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy and trained under another legend, the mridanga vidwan Umayalpuram Sri K. Sivaraman, is a recipient of several State awards and is already known in the field for his particular interest in the varied rhythms of dance.

He has a flair, of that there is no doubt. He accompanies students of Shree Bharatalaya and has already released CDs and now DVDs on unusual concepts, besides accompanying senior dancers like his mother. He has provided the soundscape — rhythms and lyrics for several of Anita Ratnam’s productions.

He also writes poems in Tamizh and is popular for his embellishments of dance recitals per se.

This year, he is pivotal to the new production that Shree Bharatalaya presents ‘Mammudha’ on the theme of Manmatha, a role his mother will play. I do not know too much about the production, but was struck by the commitment of this young man.

To launch a large production these days with pre-recorded music is no mean matter. To produce a professional audio track for a dance drama can cost anything up to Rs. 12-15,00,000! Add to that, the time taken to have the production researched, the music scored and recorded, the choreography completed before recording begins, the costumes readied for 30-odd dancers, rehearsals scheduled and you are talking about a year or more of hard work.

At the end of it, no assurances of how this mammoth production will be received by a restless and unforgiving audience. The young man is only 30 and I look forward with excitement to a long innings from him, of work related to dance.

Preethi Athreya is another young person who is ‘thinking’, said the article I read on her this week by Gowri Ramnarayan! I am not sure I agree with the byline. This somehow implies that the traditional dancer does not think or is not intelligent, but I do not disagree with the choice of Preethi.

Beautiful expression Her recent work titled “Porcelain”, showcased at The Park’s New Festival was only 40 minutes long. Now you have to have some conviction to do just that and say no more. From what I gather, she worked with a European musician who draws inspiration from the sounds of porcelain. Preethi photographed the fragile porcelain objects and was inspired by the minor contours formed in the pieces.

These inspired movement and without any one form dominating another, one was witness to a beautiful expression on stage, aided admirably by some very deft lighting and projection of the photographs as a backdrop to the work. Once again one is witness to that spirit of daring and conviction which rises above the work and its outcome or acceptability.

Nurturing a dream Closer to home, I am witness to the madness of a young man who has nurtured a dream for some years. I am proud to have him as one of us here in Kalakshetra. Like Anirudha, he too has won a national award at a relatively early stage of his career and has, in the few years I have known him, taken huge strides forward in every department of his work. He dances solo, takes major roles in our dramas, plays the mridangam deftly, sings well, is a teacher who is loved and, most of all, inspires others to hard work.

Sheejith Krishna has carried this tale in his heart, collecting every bit of material related to it, from films, to costumes and properties, and pictures of places and events. The story is alien — Alexander Dumas’s “Masquerade”: The Man in the Iron Mask. Inspired deeply by the story, he had it translated into Tamizh by that wonderful friend to all dancers and scholar par excellence, Prof. Raghuraman.

Having done that, his young wife Jyotishmati, a true partner and talented musician began scoring the music for it. Another friend Deepu Nair, a musician and self-taught wizard on the computer who worked on recordings, was the third musketeer in the drama. It is satisfying to mention that all three are degree holders from Kalakshetra. Whatever money Sheejith earned from small shows went into the purchase of odd bits of costume. Only when he began to grow his hair and refused to cut it was I let into the secret.

Collective spirit It is this obsession and the collective spirit of these young people that moves me. They were already on the job when I offered to take it on as Kalakshetra’s new production for this year.

Did we ever work like this, I wonder? Can anyone say that these artists do not live for their art or are any less committed than their mentors? Were we as talented or driven as they are? How can you put such enthusiasm down?

Source: The Hindu

One response to “Promising Youth

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