“Geetham vaadyam tathaa nrityam, trayam sangeetham uchyate” – Sangeetha Ratnakara
What’s the scene and perception today?- A survey report
Asha Ramesh, a carnatic vocalist trained under Sangeeta Kalanidhi D. K. Jayaraman was hosted on Jaya TV’s Kalaimalar, their morning talkshow. Now a part of Smt . Ranganayaki Jayaraman’s (saraswathi Gana Nilayam) family, she accompanies dance kutcheris in Chennai and in US where she currently resides. She described her experiences as a dance musician. She mentioned that her Guru wasn’t very happy when she mentioned to him that she was considering accompanying dancers! She believes dance music dosent deserve the step-child treatment it currently receives and believes singing for dance can be an intellectual challenge.
Sri. V.P. Dhananjayan in his book “Beyond Performing Art and Culture – Politico-Social aspects’ ” vehemently regrets the current compartmentalisation of dancers and musicians. He says,” I have a problem with Carnatic musicians who do not attend any Bharatanaatyam performances. I do not know whether they have a superiority complex or whether they feel that they cannot enjoy a Bharatanaatyam performance. If a musician cannot understand or enjoy a Bharatanaatyam performance, I am sorry to say that they are not a “Sangeetagna”. He has also in a response to a comment on the article said “since publishing this article a couple of years ago, the situation has improved for better.” (As quoted in Narthaki.com)
Bombay Jayasri in her recent interview to Sruti recalls how her early dance training at Rajarajeswary Natyalaya at Bombay helped her accompany Leela Samson’s dance recital
Objectives of the Survey
Inspired by the above, we set about doing an article about Music in and for Bharathanatyam for BN & WWW. We planned to look at the general perceptions regarding music in and for dance among dancers, musicians, teachers and rasikas.
A questionnaire was randomly emailed to few dancers, musicians, teachers and rasikas who had interacted with BN and WWW on previous occassions.Sydhwaney.com also hosted the questionnaire on their website and replies posted as comments on their website was also used for collecting data. It should be said at the outset, this study may at best be considered a pilot study since n (the number of respondents) is small and no systematic attempt was made to correlate the surveyed proportion of musicians/dancers/teachers/rasikas to what would be a general representative of people in attendance of a dance recital. But nevertheless this small survey would reflect existing expectations and perceptions in the group surveyed.
The survey questionnaire included a total of 9 questions relating to:-
- What qualities are expected of a musician accompanying a dance recital? (4 ques)
- Dancers need for music knowledge/appreciation-(2 ques)
- Does an appreciation of dance improve skill sets of a musician?(1 ques)
- Do professional singers feel comfortable accompanying dancers? (1 ques)
- CD as a substitute for live orchestra (1 ques)
Most of the answers needed the respondents to ascribe a numerical value in the space provided at the end of the question/statement.The respondents were asked to rate their responses to a question/statemenr on a scale of 0- 10 , with 0 meaning you strongly disagree and 10 meaning you strongly agree
strongly disagree strongly agree
For eg, if they strongly felt that good music accompaniment was necessary for a dance program they would perform/attend they score it 10
A few optional open ended questions were included and the respondents were also given an option to add related information as they deemed fit. The questionnaire was sent initially to a dancer, rasika and musician to verify the face and content value and aptness of the survey material. Modifications suggested were incorporated. The data collection was done between Oct 25th and Nov 8th, 2009.
The demographics of the responses
A total of responses from 26 respondents are used in this survey. Their classification as dancers, musicians, dance teachers and rasikas are based on their voluntary recommendation appropriate to their current situation. There are a few who definitely belong to 2 classes and we placed them in what we considered was the most appropriate. 54% of the respondents were either dancers or dance teachers, 34% rasikas and 12% were musicians, which is so because of the nature of visitors to this blog. Nevertheless it should be noted that this may not be very different from the actual attendees of a dance concert itself, where the audience consists mainly of dance students, dance teachers, rasikas (a major component being family and friends of students/dancers) and very few musicians. But we may never see 12% of the audience being comprised of musicians! Again because of the viewership pattern of this blog 42% of the respondents are from India and the rest of the responses came from subjects in USA, UK, Malaysia and Australia. It was also noted that the categories of musicians, dancers, rasikas and teachers were equally distributed among participants of the survey from India and abroad.
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These pictures might just give you an idea with regards to the responses. I believe they will make more sense along with the discussion that I am currently working on using the remarks from the survey.