Lingering images and new trends in dance

It was mixed fare during the season as usual, though there were some heartening trends which could grow over the years. With new organisations sponsoring music and dance mushrooming every year, Chennai is still a music city and while one appreciates the ‘kaan’ (ear) sense amongst the people, one still notices a diminished ‘aankh’ or visual sense required for enjoying a dance performance. Dance is still looked upon as the lesser art in many quarters and while the music concerts drew fair to heavy audience turnouts, there was just a scattering of people for most dance events. Some of the best were rendered in front of very thin gatherings. In the burgeoning music scene with a whole crop of younger musicians suddenly appearing on the horizon, dance is not in the same bracket. After listening to a concert by T.M. Krishna or Sanjay Subrahmanyan, the first thought to cross my mind was, “Where is the dance of comparable quality — to transport people to a different level of consciousness away from this mundane day to day living?” No answers! Sadly dancers have got used to performing for very small audiences, some treating the recital as one more line to add to their biodata. Senior dancers told me that Lakshmi Vishwanathan’s outstanding abhinaya in Nandanar Charitram at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, merited far more than the thirty odd persons seated in the auditorium. One favourable trend in Chennai lay in the queues of people standing before the ticket counter to pay for shows, instead of muscling their way in through invitations — the scourge that Delhi suffers from, with its pampered audiences. The two venues where the magic wand seems to work even for dance are the Dance Festival of the Music Academy — which has become a landmark event, coming towards the fag end of the season — and the festival at Kalakshetra — which now attracts really full halls. In the Music Academy festival this year, gate sales for some of the shows like Samanvaya the Bharatanatyam/Odissi jugalbandi featuring Alarmel Valli and Madhavi Mudgal touched new heights of over a lakh of rupees! The Natya Kala Conference was without any flourish, with Convener Bharati Shivaji keeping her introductions of dancers down to three or four sentences. There was no invocation, which usually sets off the proceedings. Despite a somewhat unstructured format, the subject of ‘Sangeetam in Dance’ provoked a fair amount of variety and sparked some vigorous discussions. Barring a clutch of diehards who attend every year, the event had very few supporters but for the Kalakshetra organisation sending a busload of its students every day for the proceedings — a good move, for it is the young who reap the greatest benefits from such events. [See detailed report by V.A.K. Ranga Rao].