Forty years ago, in 1973, a group of dance enthusiasts and dancers from several countries gathered at the Palais de l’Unesco in Paris to found the International Dance Council (CID), envisaged as a global body instituted to protect the interest of dance. Strangely, at that time, India—the land where even the gods danced—was not part of the group. The founding fathers and mothers of the CID were active in ballet and modern dance, so subsequent members continued to be distinguished dancers, choreographers and dance teachers from these specialisations only; and they were all mainly Europeans.
It was much later, from 1999, that the CID membership was opened to personalities from other forms of dance: traditional, contemporary, tango, Indian, therapeutical, Oriental, etc. Today, one can say that CID is truly representative when it comes to dance idioms, geographical areas and functions. According to CID President Alkis Raftis, “Scholars constitute a high proportion of CID membership... university professors, holders of doctorate degrees, authors of dance books, researchers. Organisations such as federations, unions, university departments, associations or regional groupings remain as the most important category of members.”
World Dance Day, promoted by the CID and celebrated every year on 29th April since 1982, aims at attracting attention to the art of dance. It is celebrated by thousands of dancers around the globe. On that day, dance companies, dance schools, organisations and individuals—professionals as well as amateurs, organise an activity addressing an audience different from their usual one. To spread the buzz as it were!
For the past decade, celebrating World Dance Day has caught on in India too. The Spic Macay for example, takes well-known dancers to schools and colleges for a special celebration of dance. Since 1995, in collaboration with the India International Centre and support from the Ministry of Culture and Sangeet Natak Akademi, I have curated a celebration of World Dance Day featuring seminars, talks and films that promote Indian classical dance. The celebrations culminate with a Young Dancers Festival that offers an eclectic platform to emerging artistes. The Young Artists Fest is my way of paying back. Years ago, the renowned Odissi dancer Sonal Man Singh had invited me to perform in her Young Dancers Fest. That was a huge honour and I remember it fondly.
This year, the seminar I have planned focuses on the difficult issue of What is Classical Anymore? With so many diluting influences from different media, the onslaught of technology on teaching methodologies, with students of dance in a perpetual hurry to perform, it was time to assess what the Indian classical experience truly entails and embraces. And to initiate the dialogue will be India’s pre-eminent dance scholar and dancer Vidushi Dr Kapila Vatsyayan who has witnessed first-hand the birth and moulding of so many of our classical genres.
But beyond specific events, the day is sacred to all dancers. It is a reiteration of their continuing worth and a tribute to their sweat as they tame their bodies to craft experiences that transcend time and memory. Happy World Dance Day!