BENGALURU: As India woke up to the arrival of 2020, as Dr A P J Abdul Kalam had predicted, there were all indications of a new India emerging. Vision 2020 was all set to take shape.Hardly a couple of months later, the country was slowly stepping into an era of gloom. Movements were restricted, socialising was banned and evenings became dull with everyone confined to the house. For dance critics like me, with nowhere to go, no stage performances or interaction with artistes, there was only laptop or mobile phone for company.
Covid has also given a new definition -- Creators of Various Interactive Domains. Can Arts and Science meet? Yes and No. While our 8-inch phone screens and laptops are buzzing with cultural events and have become a virtual theatre in our hands, the sight of dancers in their pyjamas and jeans presenting the varnams and jathis in their drawing rooms, porticos and even kitchen puts me off.
Zoom-Bha Natyam (as dancer Anita Ratnam calls it), live chats, conferences and arangetrams have all descended on our hand-held machine and it looks like the world has shrunk into the palms of our hands.There were some good online dance festivals that gave glimpses of superb technology, sensitive lighting and stunning dancing, but they are few and far between. One such show was hosted by Bangalore-based Kuchipudi guru Vyjayanthi Kashi with help from her tech-savvy daughter and dancer Prateeksha in which, for about a week, every day a dancer and guru were interviewed online and glimpses of their past came alive.
From The Hague, The India Dans Festival 2020 Online Edition was produced by Korzo theatre. Directed by Indophile and dance enthusiast, Leo Spreksel, this beautifully curated event featured some rare artistes who we will never get to see in India. From Chicago, the young disciples of Krithika Rajagopalan’s Natya Dance Theatre presented two shows every weekend for three weeks. Programme notes were sent in advance to each ‘audience member’.
But for one good show, there are at least 10 poorly executed performances.
A Mohiniyattam dancer presented a half-an-hour recital and sent a link to watch it. But the audio was almost in the mute mode and video was shaky. In fact, she didn’t have to move, the camera was doing it for her! When pointed out, she blamed the poor net connectivity and her husband who was filming it on his mobile phone!
It is depressing to find performers not understanding who the audience is, and what is the new language they need to use to communicate while performing in front of empty space and walls.The stage is now a living room, lobby, a portico, a corner or front yard, with saris or bedsheets replacing the curtains. And it is painful to watch the dancers, who used to apply make-up and wear dance costumes, forgetting the fact that all dance styles have to have ‘Aharya’ — a strict dress code. We have dance content. What is needed is the twining with technology. This is an area that many younger dancers can work on using this period to learn.