I have seen a growing obsession and intolerance to styles among dancers, students of dance and rasika. While stylistic differences are becoming less apparent due to dancers learning from more than one guru, antagonism between dancers who follow different styles does exist and is quite shocking.
I have often heard arguments centered around:-
- geometry vs spontaneity
- measured movements vs fluidity
- individuality vs mass-production
- aesthetics vs authenticity
- tradition vs innovation
- typical vs unpredictable
- dignity vs grace
While personal preferences are but normal, is this total intolerance to others usual too? Have you ever sensed this animosity I am talking about? Blessed is the rasika who is able to appreciate across boundaries???
I just spoke to someone who refused to attend a program because despite the dancer being a ” perfect executioner” ( a term that came from the other end of the phone), he/she hates the style.
“Near and dears” and “not- so near and dears” often express reservations with comments like
” Style too mathematically defined and superficial for my taste!” , ” Abhinaya measured”, ” Total Exhibitionism, self-obsessed “,”filmy”…While a few of these refer to the school/style, a few refer to the individual interpretation of the style too.
While most rasikas define and identify the known styles/panis of Bharathanatyam ( as in kalakshetra, Vazhuvoor, Tanjore, Pandanallur etc etc) I knew a rasika/ critic who had his own classification system. This person never failed to coin terms that caught those destined to sit next to him off-guard! Watching programs with this person was entertaining, educative and upsetting all at once . This person was never ever pleased easily and his verdict was usually pronounced within the first 2 mins of the dancer’s stage presence. Here are a few samples:-
- ” vettu killi tothu kili style” – as in extra tempo
- “karappanpuchi style”- too much hurried movement on stage
- “Chani Mithi”- lack of movement on stage/ too much on the spot movement
- “kathakalashepam”- very lokadharmi
- “kizha boltu style”- no angasuddha
- “tharasu”- measured to perfection
- “intellectual type”- when more content is delegated to the compere!
- “circus”- you know what
- “photo shoot”- when too many poses were thrown in together
- “key kodutha bommai style”- perfect but lack of internalization
- mezhugu (wax) apple – everything is alright, but lacks soul
- “all in one”- when the dancer learnt from gurus of more than one style
- “garva natyam”- a dancer who always danced with the feeling and knew that she was good
Once he could place the dancer in one of his classes, he would know what to expect. But the ones who were really good made him forget all about his nomenclature and classification. He would remain in his seat for a couple of minutes after the show, soaking up the experience. Finally he would get up and say ” paravalle illa?” (it was ok, wasn’t it?”). He had coined a special feminine gender term for “nattuvanar”- “tattuvaani”!
And then, when a dancers natyarambham during the alarippu was below acceptable standards, he would proclaim ” tham enga vachikkarthu? kitathatta thaiya vachikkarathu!” playing on the phonetics of tham dit tham, kita taka thai. He once pacified an expectant parent who sought approval after his daughter’s performance. Not wanting to displease the father, he offered the following appraisal:
“Nanna key kodutha bomma mathiriye adina pongo! karapampoochi thootudumna ivakitte.. keep it up! Guruvaiyum sollanum parungo. She should take the credit for this!”( She danced like a wound-up toy, speedwise, she could win the cockroaches..keep it up… You need to credit the Guru too!”
All of us friends and cousins had to scurry off hurriedly before we embarrassed ourselves!
This person isn’t with us any more. But his comments and classification system still lives among those of us who were blessed to know this genuine rasika. He enjoyed the goodness everywhere and objectively (within his scope of course) evaluated every performance. We realized that vettukilis , tothu kilis, kizha boltus and mezhugu apples come from all different dance schools and so do the rare gems.