In step with the classical arts: 'Aalaap' to analyse the strengths, weaknesses in Bharatnatyam 

Akhila Krishnamurthy, founder of Aalaap, firmly believes that a circle has the qualities of trust, togetherness, sharing empathy, and promotes a sense of togetherness.

Published: 23rd September 2023 06:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd September 2023 06:19 AM   |  A+A-


Aalaap’s Chennai Circle brought together eight dancers from the city to discuss the SWOT analysis of Bharatnatyam  (Photo | Siddharth Ravikanth)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Chennai is a melting pot of culture. While dance and music form an integral part, Bharatanatyam is at the city’s core. Though Chennai is flourishing with artists practising and performing the art form, there are gaps that need to be addressed.

To understand the art and the industry in the contemporary world, Aalaap, a boutique art consulting and management company in the city, hosted an evening to discuss the SWOT analysis of the art form. More than 50 people gathered at the ‘Chennai Circle’ under the company’s ‘Citywise’ initiative on Thursday. 

Akhila Krishnamurthy, founder of Aalaap, firmly believes that a circle has the qualities of trust, togetherness, sharing empathy, and promotes a sense of togetherness. “Thus, creating a circle, creating a platform for the dancers to come together and voice out in a safe space and provide opportunities for conversation and to feel part of something larger is the idea of Chennai Circle,” she adds. 

Artistes and their analysis

Eight female artists —  Avanti Natarajan, Jagyaseni Chatterjee, Janane Sethunarayanan, Mahati Kannan, Manasvini Ramachandran, Meghna Krishnan, Natasha Pandit, and Nivedha Harish — shared their analyses of Bharatanatyam on stage. Veteran and budding artists alike, with different backgrounds — some from Chennai, some who made it their home,  some who had generations of their family practice this art, some who were the first generation — shared their perspectives. 

Talking about strengths, they unanimously agreed upon the existence of sabhas in the city. The cultural festivals hosted by sabhas help artistes in networking. The city houses top artists who have built an ecosystem that brings in opportunities and also allows artists to have a livelihood. This, in turn, brings opportunities like collaborating or learning from top artists and experimenting with the art form. Other aspects that could be explored to bring in newer audiences, they opined, are youth associations comprising members of the community to develop the industry and also to include the art form as an extracurricular activity in schools. 

Among weaknesses, the artists felt that with emerging artists, there is an increase in competition with respect to the number of performances during the Margazhi season. While they did agree having sabhas was a strength, it also is a weakness in the way of dependence. To host a show, every artiste has to pay to perform which is a huge disadvantage. Declining numbers of audience for shows resulting in no new or younger crowd is also a cause for concern. The major threat felt by the artists was performance vs. OTT platforms, and the unwillingness of people to attend live performances. For which a solution was drawn out immediately —  to use the platform for the benefit of the industry by releasing performance documentaries. 

Tours and takeaways

Not only the presenters but also the audience members put forth their concerns and suggestions. One among which was to include contemporary narrative in the performances to which the artists unanimously agreed, “Art is how every individual perceives it, one can relate it with a relationship they had with a person years ago or a situation that took place in their lives just recently. It is just how the viewer views it.” 

The purpose of the event was to bring solutions to the problems that are pertinent in the industry. “Under the Chennai Circle project, the analyses put forth are documented and the company is working to provide answers to the questions presented,” says Akhila. They plan to bring in corporations, and organisations, or even seek support from the government to help the artists and the art form. The company is visiting different cities to record the art practice. After ticking off Chennai this month and Hyderabad earlier, they plan to hear from artists of Bengaluru in October. 

With hopes and pride for the art form, the evening came to an end with the artists agreeing to give back to the community in any way and Aalaap plans to come up with a second edition on how to find solutions. 

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