The Music Academy dance festival

After watching the 12th Dance Festival of the Music Academy, which drew sizeable audiences for both morning and evening performances, I was nagged by questions of where we are going in Bharatanatyam—and other dance traditions too. While dance as an art form is becoming more and more glamourised, you wonder, “Where have the silences, the quietude and subtleties gone?” In what is generally regarded as a formal ceremony with a protocol, the inauguration threw up the first surprise in the very casually groomed chief guest Mark W. Morris (a name to reckon with in the West as Artistic Director and Dancer of Mark Morris Dance Group, New York), his work-a-day clothes, striking what the Hindi-phile would call ras-bhang, amidst all the gorgeously Conjeevaram clad ladies and formally dressed men. The organisers probably missed informing him to remove his footwear while taking the stage with Nataraja’s statue presiding over the performance area with a lighted lamp. His speech was all about loving Carnatic music, and as friend and admirer of Nritya Kalanidhi awardee Lakshmi Vishwanathan, he confined himself to praising her art. The other great dancer Barshnikov (who was present) came and went; both guests hardly had any interaction with other dancers and art lovers attending the festival. They seemed to be confined to the hotel most of the time.