It’s been a matter of personal pride that in my own life, I have managed to keep the green-eyed monster—Envy—at bay. But recently it got to me when I read about an amazing philanthropic gesture, in the July issue of the American edition of Architectural Digest magazine, spearheaded by its editor. Her project was to refurbish the common lounge used by dancers at the iconic American Ballet Theatre in New York.
I read with fascination, how the magazine catalysed the designers and product manufacturers to contribute to that refurbishment for free. The list of donors who pitched in is awesome: Furniture from Century Furniture; lighting from Circa Lighting, custom carpet from Crosby Street Studios, fabrics by Sunbrella, paint by Farrow and Ball, window shades by Hunter Douglas, television by LG Signature, and all the designers and craftsmen donated their time. Can there be any better yardstick to measure how America celebrates ballet?
The monster irked me because for the past two years, I have been planning an infrastructure upgrade for my dance studio and have been unable to catalyse even one whit of CSR funding. I had knocked on all doors—government agencies, public sector companies and the private sector—but all my efforts went in vain.
That aside, my key question is, how ballet is able to command pan-societal respect and participation in a way that classical Bharatanatyam is unable to? Where did Bharatanatyam lag behind? In terms of audience, this dance form probably has more votaries who may go and watch it compared to ballet in the US. What then prevents it from being a cherished cultural asset that can draw public participation in terms of support and funding?
The fault lies at the doors of artists who have not created a larger vision for Bharatanatyam or any other classical dances as a public asset. By keeping it personal and merely artist oriented, we have not been able to attract resources that would bring maximum classical Indian dance bang.
Is there any prescription? I think the entire dance community needs to strategise how we can inject Vitamin-P into our dance community. Vitamin-P? Yes. Vitamin Participation.
Dance cannot belong to dance artists alone. It must be a shared imagination for the entire nation. People from all sectors–elected officials, government, corporate sector, civil society, academia, and youth—should feel galvanised by the concept of India having a classical dance heritage. It must be a shared pride. Only when such participation is engineered, we can hope for a better future for the dance and the dancers. And for the laggard infrastructure that doggedly beats our dance dreams.
Can someone prescribe Vitamin-P to the Indian nation?