Adaptability is the new normal of dance

 Adaptability is the new normal of dance

As artistes, we live our day-to-day life in three worlds: yesterday, today and tomorrow. All three are equally important, but we can change one of them. One where we stand right now. It is said apart from the art what is very important for any artiste is the quality of adaptability. What really is being adaptable means it is to be able to change or be changed in order to fit or work better in some situation or for some purpose. Dance is one art form that forces one to be adaptable – physically and mentally – to one’s abilities, movements, choreography, distractions, the list is endless. Famous Canadian ballet dancer Karen Kain once said, “Dancers, like all performing artistes, like nothing better than to be challenged.” What 2020 got for dancers was a huge test, something that none of us could have ever imagined in the wildest of our dreams.

Suddenly one day everything came to a standstill, all dance classes stopped, all events and shows were motionless and the dancers went jobless for days and months. Some who suffered financial losses, took up small odd jobs and hung up their dancing shoes and some put their ghungroos in a box and sealed it forever and vowed never to dance again. Those who could not take the pressure and the stress of the pandemic even committed suicide. But it is said dancers are like water they can and they should adjust to any given place or situation that’s the real quality of a good dancer. Those who held onto their passion dearly did not want to let go of their gift of dance so they learnt the new way of life, dancing online.

Teaching and performing online, organising virtual dance festivals, Instagram live chats, facebook talks, interviews, etc. all online became the new normal for many. Some took to it like fish in water and some learnt their way up and today I feel happy to say every dancer is comfortable with the medium of dance online.

Talking about her live FB talk sessions, Padma Vibhushan Dr Sonal Mansingh said, “On request of my students, I started the session where I spoke about India and Indian culture. My aim has always been to spread the importance of Indian culture, value and tradition and that is what I did by explaining famous Sanskrit and Hindi poetries through my talk on FB. I was overwhelmed with the response the session got, we had dancers from all over the world joining my talk and I glad they went back with information that they will cherish for a lifetime.”

She further added, “Later I decided to organise a virtual visual feast of arts, Kala Yatra, a two-day online festival where we dedicated day one to Ramayana and day two to Mahabharata. I was happy that it allowed be to dig into my archives and showcase many videos of my old performances. Kala Yatra also had renowned artistes talk on various stories of the two epics and we also had some newer elements of dance added into the online festival. Sandip, your performance of Draupadi Cheer Haran presented through Egyptian Tanoura dance was my favourite.”


dance adaptability


Padma Shri Shovana Narayan too organised a three-day online dance festival titled Vividh Mat. We, at Asavari, in association with the Ministry of Culture brought forward Vivid Mat, a dance festival where we had discussions-cum-performances online. Renowned artistes spoke and danced on theme of Shwet Shyam. Normally it is difficult to get various accomplished artistes all together under one roof but the best part of the virtual world is that this impossible task is now possible. The three-day dance extravaganza had Geeta Chandran, Dr Sunil Kothari, Ranjana Gauhar, Prathibha Prahlad, Bharati Shivaji, Sharon Lowen and Sandip even you, talking and dancing. This new normal has given a fresh outlook towards dance to all of us.”

The lockdown did not hold back Kalashree Lata Sudrendra too. She is well-known for creating unique dance festivals with interesting themes left no stone unturned to bring the dance community together during this depression phase. She organised not just one but six virtual festivals and still is going strong with the same. She said, “The trials and tribulations of life have always sought expression in mirroring art forms. I have always sought to ensure that this connect between dance and life is reflected in curated annual festivals with unique themes. The first virtual festival was the International Dance Day in April, that linked dance forms, titled – Ode unto Humanity. It was the first virtual mega festival of India in this lockdown phase with over 80 dancers and dance forms from all over the world seeking to define the spirit of man soaring beyond limitations.”

She went on to add, “Then came ‘Aaroh’ in May that showcased the ability in differently abled adults, then in July was a three days ‘Dancity International Dance Festival’, followed by two days ‘Ekam’ festival, that continued on virtual dimensions that had legendary dancers of all styles use their unique potency to define the theme ‘Bane and Boon’ through mythologies. In October followed three days festival called ‘Thrikalam’, that gathered the flowing rhythms that has us all gathered in theme ‘One world and One dance.”

That is not all she also curated dance festival in collaboration with Jagruti Kala Kendra in Nepanagar, gathering the pulsating synergy of all dance forms for a more promising tomorrow. Lata ji believes that the virtual world is the new way of life for a while and the sooner one adapts to it the better it will be for. She concluded by saying, ‘I have three festivals coming up in 2021, with an ‘ode to the tree’ in January, ‘Once upon a time’ reviving fairy tales in March and the Dance day celebration in April that will have stalwarts attempt another style with the theme “Dance my Dance”’.

Kolkata-based contemporary dancer-choreographer Sudarshan Chakravorty went a step ahead and has been organising, Dance Vivid a virtual live ticketed show every month end, where dancers perform live for the audience. This has allowed dancers to earn out of their performance as well and he has people from all over the world joining the show.

Almost all dance teachers took beautifully to teaching dance online, the landmark dance school of Indian classical dance Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya was quick to move to online sessions for their students. Founder of Nalanda, Padma Bhushan Dr. Kanak Rele said, ‘As soon as lockdown was announced we started online dance sessions, because we did not want our students to miss out on anything, as they have to appear for their dance exams, give their master degree and more. Imparting the right dance education has always been our motto. Yes, I will admit that at the start it was difficult to conduct online sessions but my teachers and students all worked very hard to adjust to this new situation.’

It was not just the festivals and classes that were the new normal for dancers, live chats on social media was buzzing too. Kathak Dancer Alaknanda from Delhi hosted ‘Oops I said it’ a fun filled chat session with dancers, contemporary dancer Koushik Podder from Kolkatta hosted ‘Rubaroo’ where he got art stalwarts from not just India but from various parts of the world too. It was not just dancers who stepped ahead to chat with dancers award winning designer Sanjana Jon session on ‘Celestial Dancers’ had all the dance achievers come together too, Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj to Padma Bhushan Radha Raja Reddy all descended on the virtual platform and made their dynamic presence felt.

Today a dancer needs to know more than just dance, they need to understand the new virtual way of dancing and talking, which is a lot different to what we use to do before, this is only one can survive. Imagine if this pandemic would have hit in the 1980’s when there was no internet, what would have happened? It is said, ‘Everything happens at the right time,’ life has moved on in a different way and I am sure you all will agree with me that the so called old normal will take a while to settle back. So, the only option for us is, to put our best foot forward and adapt to the new challenges the universe has thrown at us.


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