Questioning the quality of dance groups travelling to US

I have been wondering whether I should  even be bringing this into this blog… But “freedom of speech got the better of me today”. I am afraid someone might mail me and ask me to explain as to what exactly I mean by this … But ..

Without further ado, here is the crux of the matter

Mukundagiri Sadagopan of Illinois, USA, discusses this issue in this article he e-mailed to KutcheriBuzz.com

“As the 2008 music and dance season starts in North America (USA and Canada) I have a personal peeve regarding the visiting classical dance troupes coming from India. I suspect that a large percent of lay-audiences in North America share this complaint.

In recent years India-Based Dance Troupes- with a few notable exceptions – leave much to be desired. To state briefly, every troupe is anchored by a main dancer who is past his / her prime and is physically unable to move rapidly on the stage. Because of this the programs they offer are slow and boring.

These India-based troupes are mostly anchored by a senior artist who exceptional in her Abhinaya (hand gestures) and Nrityha (expressional or narrative dance) – but is lacking in Nrutta which is pure dance. “Pure dance” – the rapid-fire stepping and dynamic footwork is what differentiates a dance from a “Katha Kalakshepam” – a musical, often a tear-jerker.

There is intense competition among highly talented troupes to win trips to America. Out of these only those with the most economic power and political clout get the contracts. However, it takes decades to build the required combination of talent, money and influence. By that time the Anchor Dancer, who by now is also the owner of her own dance school and its artistic director, has almost completely lost the physical strength to prance and leap forcefully as Nrutta – true dancing requires.

Invariably, there are fabulously athletic dancers touring with each of the teams, but they are junior members under the control of the Anchor. When the curtain opens, like most normal humans would do, the Anchor hogs the stage, not giving scarcely a chance to the stronger dancers.

So what should the buyers – Classical Program Organizers in North America do?” Read the complete article at http://www.kutcheribuzz.com/news/20080320/indiandance.asp

Here are some interesting discussions on this topic at rasikas.org

http://www.rasikas.org/viewtopic.php?id=5199

Here are some points that caught my eye for those lazy/busy ones who cant bear going throught the whole thread…

” I have always been pleased that the dance audience does not reject a performer on the basis of a few extra years or a few extra pounds or a little less agility on the feet.” -Nick H

“many of the senior dancers certainly do not have the physical appearance to make this essentially visual art-form appealing (not ALL, thankfully! There are notable exceptions). Certainly, fast-paced nritta is wisely eschewed by some of these, but even in the abhinaya segment, I have some issues: I for one (and maybe that is just the shallowness in me) am not able to appreciate some of these dancers trying to convince me that he/she is a nubile gOpI, or a sinuous kALIya, or a mischievous krishNa. They carry more weight (literally as well as figuratively) when they are enacting the lamenting mother who has lost her son on the battlefield or something like that! Even aTTamIs are tough to discern, and more importantly, lack grace, when a gazelle-like neck becomes hidden in a cephalo-thoracic body!”- R shankar

“Maya Plisetskaya is 83 but is still dancing and is still even now in a far better shape than the 60-year-old Dame Margot was”-Kanchanad

“Natya Shastra plainly states that the quality of the narthaki is agility, etc.
Abhinaya Darpanam says that the dancer must be youthful and slender, and plainly states that natya is a visual art form and has to do with the beauty of the physical body, and therefore any other “dancing” is a parody. Do you think we are blind and do not see that the senior dancers’ (except, perhaps, for Alarmel Valli’s) “natya” is a parody?”- Chitra Shankar

“It seems to me that dancers from India have a condescending attitude towards rasikas in the USA. Which is sad, because a true professional would be true to his/her art, irrespective of the stage/audience.”- Manavatara

(All names quoted are the usernames used in rasikas website)

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