In the beginning, I did not realise what dance meant to me because my mother used to take me for my dance classes. I started learning it and just sailed with it. But, without my ever realising it, dance gradually became my medium of expression. Whenever I was very sad or happy, I used to lock myself in a room, and just dance the most difficult pieces over and over again with maniacal determination. I’d eventually come out and feel better and happy. But I never realised what it meant till I noticed my students behaving the same way.
That is when it hit me that classical dance is catharsis to me and it is something that just lets my body generate some hormones, without which I feel sad. So that was the beginning of my understanding that dance could mean different things to different people. When I thought of starting to teach dance, it was of course with the idea of imparting what I had learnt from my gurus. I was a part of the tradition, and that’s how dance has continued to be taught for so many years.
But in the last 25 years, I’ve seen a huge change in the mind of the youngsters and the not-so-young coming to learn. Earlier, there were no stakes in the learning process; we used to just learn and be happy doing just that. But today learning has become very focused. The attitude today is: “If I give one hour, what do I get in return?” It’s a transaction. So the mind is always analysing what one can get out of every class. “Is what I am doing adding to my CV? Otherwise, I won’t do it.”
So I think today’s learners’ minds are not the kind of minds which will just accept what they are receiving from the teacher without analysing it or without intellectualising what they are getting. Also, the attention span is very short these days. A teacher has to constantly keep feeding ideas to keep the students motivated. No one wants to stay in an idea and delve deeper into it. The effort is on seeking the next and the next.
But this creates a lot of problems because one is merely seeking newer things all the time. We have forgotten to enjoy the present moment. Even as performers, we’re having problems because when we perform we see only a sea of mobiles and cameras facing us. Nobody is actually receiving what we are giving. They’re only recording it. And let’s be honest, nobody goes back home and really sees that recording. It’s just a sense of having that power: “I have caught this.” But in that moment, they lose the charm of experiencing the performance. firstname.lastname@example.org