Compere Talks

Dance performances seem to acknowledge musicians, the support staff in-charge of make-up/lights/sound but never do introduce the compere. Or at least I haven’t seen one being introduced. They go about doing the jobs, varying in their degrees of proficiency; which is determined both by individual ability and need for the situation. I randomly bullet out a few of my observations on this aspect…

A. Compering Styles:

  • The  Student Compere: Reads what is given to her(usually females). The good ones re-read it and improve their delivery till it come across as their own and the lazy ones try reading it only in the diffused light of the show. The stammering, repetition and absurdity of this situation can make even the most docile/passive member of the audience squirm with discomfort. This compere usually stays behind the curtains while it is becoming more common to see beautiful girls walk up to the stage and take up the interludes with(or without ) glory. This kind is commonly seen accompanying arangetram dancers and early stage professionals. Good (traditional) costume and make-up are an absolute necessity, especially if the compere is going to face the audience. I have a request here:

“Girls, please go easy on the eye shadow, you are scaring us with that multicolour painting job that you got done specially for this event!”” Also if you havent worn the sari or the Indian dress you are planning to wear, anytime before, it might be a good idea to try them on and get used to them before you can strut gracefully onto the stage”

  • The Value-Addition Specialist: They are respource people who add much in terms of context, idea and facilitate the flow of the program. The text for each item contains more than “the next no.. is a composition by s0 and s0, in ragam …… and thalam…… Here the dancer…..”. Sometimes these specialists try to make more sense out of a thematic presentation that lacks the depth and cohesiveness that is needed to carry the idea across successfully. This class has  sat down more often with the artiste at the time of formating the event. Great thought has gone into the text, the references and the lingo.  These comperes are usually in their mid-30’s (or older) and typically have good confidence levels, though they may opt to stay behind the curtains. The specialist is usually seen accompanying established dancers (young and old) and “intellectual presentations”. But sometimes, there  could be a tendency of these comperes to lose focus of “whose event it is”. So long drawn out introductions for items or way too many related/unrelated details can create barriers to the flow of the program, making the audience resent  the compere.
  • The Dramatist: Well they belong to a rare species. They may have a theatrical background and may almost become the “sutradhar”(puppeteer) of the event! The story literally unfolds through them. These people are the really “very-sure -of- themselves” kind.  Their advantage is that they connect more to the audience because they aren’t just communicating  technically correct information passages. They are “speaking” to the audience and their physical presence on the stage helps the audience emotionally and physically connect with them. This Master Puppeteer is seen accompanying dance drams or experimental productions (and suits only these in my view). The problem with this Master Puppeteer, (if he or she is very effective), is that even if it was not intended to be so, he or she can take away all the limelight from even the lead dancer/choreographer. I havent seen “bad- ones” in this category, so cannot really talk about it.
  • Mime: A reader reminds me of  this class, that I had so conveniently forgotten. This has clearly evolved in recent times. Here the main effort is to introduce the dance vocabulary to new audience. I think this must be very useful when taking the art to arenas outside the usual circuit like schools and universities.. But would it be a little weird otherwise?? I have seen the dancer do this herself and at times another individual taking it up.

B. Language and Diction

Well its never easy to satisfy all rasikas. When the compere chooses to speak in English, there are those who complain “Peter akka Vandachu”. When Tamil(or any other vernacular) is chosen, those who dont speak the language, complain. “The songs are in Tamil and Telugu already, so why would they need to cater to those who know the language? It’s us they should think about”.  Proficiency and comfort of the compere in the chosen language and clear diction are absolute necessities. It is a pity otherwise. I receive this email from a friend who reminds of the time when the compere said something that sounded like the following during the interval

“Ladies and Gentlemen please help yourself to snakes in the front”

After a few gasps, we saw that he meant snacks indeed.  VIPs in the front row must have almost panicked.. poor things!!

C. Content

The content and depth of the MC’s introduction bits may vary from being bare minimal as in railway station announcements to “Sorpozhivu” (do I translate it to mean talk??). This once again as seen earlier depends on the ability of the compere/wrirter,  and should be determined by the need of the event.

D. Who is the Compere?

A few dancers like to compere their own shows (eg: Ms. Priyadarshini Govind,  Ms. Urmila Sathyanarayanan et al). And I have found that audience are very receptive of this  (probably it is comforting to know that the dancer knows what he/she is upto). At other times a student/individual associated with the same institution, a subject expert or a professional compere (who has become one because he or she excels in it) may be called upon to be the MC.

Whatever the style or language the compere choses to adopt, and whoever the individual doing it is, excellence needs to appreciated in reviews, does it not? Similarly deficiencies need to be pointed out too. After all they contribute to the show as well, be it postive or negative.

Ok now let’s hear your comments.

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3 responses to “Compere Talks

  1. Read this review where the writer describes the way Leela Samson’s compeered in her latest performance.
    http://www.mumbaimirror.com/article/57/201009022010090204320056338f460e1/Gracing-the-dance-floor.html
    Personally, I like Alarmel Valli’s compeering. She sets the mood before each item. To some extent, I like PG’s compeering as well.
    But, sometimes I think it is better if I don’t see the person except for the voice and content. These are my observations.
    🙂
    Ragothaman

    Hi R
    Thanks again.
    Nice Link.
    A reader has just reminded me about the “mime” kind! So you like it unobtrusive eh? Yes! coming to think of it dance is a intensive and predominantly visual form of communication and a little respite in terms of having no visual cues between the items may help.
    But I know a few those who need to see the people talking, to comprehend or really pay attention. They complain that a formless voice just beats them… I wonder why??

    Regards,
    Sangeetha

  2. Why? The formless, blurred voice is often delivering an excruciating attempt of the compere to decipher the hardly visible and utterly incomprehensible (verging on nonsensical) text (often in the form of cryptic handwriting done in the last minute), stumbling at unexpected places, with some queer pronunciation and bafflingly unsuitable intonations (as dancers are not trained in Vachika abhinaya).

    Hey Ashwini, that’s unfair. There may definitely be (quite) a few of the kind you say.I doubt seeing them physically on stage will make any difference to the viewer’s comprehension.It may just add to the discomfort. But I have seen dancers “talk” to the audience without having to read from some written aid. There are quite a few articulate speakers among dancers.
    On the other hand, there are people who need to see the speaker… it has got something to do with their comprehension style and nothing much to do with who is talking.
    Regards,
    Sangeetha

  3. I like it best when everything is darkened out and the only thing i and the audience can hear is my voice (preferably pre-recorded for i cant talk after a varnam without panting heavily into the microphone, i hate it when dancers are all panting or take a huge break before talking again). Then all that is there to pay attention to is the words and since you cannot catch up with the maami next seat about her daughters new husband. 😀

    I also like to do my own compering for the event because i dont trust other peoples intelligence 🙂

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