Once again it is time to celebrate World Dance Day. April 29 has been declared Dance Day by UNESCO’s Dance Council. In his message for the Day this year, the President of the International Dance Council Alkis Raftis points towards a very important trend — of dance becoming insular and inward-looking. He writes: “A century ago, famous Russian organizer Sergei Diaghilev revolutionised ballet by inviting the most talented painters and musicians of his time to contribute to his performances. I have the impression that present day choreographers neglect the other arts, do not feel the need to present their creations alongside their equals in other fields.
I am sure audiences would appreciate more arts included in dance performances, starting with the classical arts: painting, sculpture, theatre, music, poetry, architecture, as well as more modern forms like photography, cinema, multimedia, lighting design, sound design. Let me go further in proposing to enrich choreography with the humanities (history, literature, philosophy and linguistics). Personally, I would particularly enjoy storytelling, martial arts, and I mean it very seriously, culinary arts.”
We in India have had an ancient tradition where the arts have interacted with each other. The touchstone for being a complete dancer was the knowledge of all 64 arts! In our temple-towns of the past, all the arts exchanged energies with each other. In Akbar’s court too, it is said, that the navaratnas competed and encouraged each other. Why have we reached the nadir of becoming so insular today?
Speaking from my own experience, my most creative highs have been through creative collaborations with a wide range of dancers, musicians, crafts-persons, authors, writers, poets, painters, theatre-personalities, academicians, philosophers, linguists and costume and fashion designers. Each of them and their creative process is different. How they get inspired remains wondrous and how they communicate with the other arts is a tumultuous journey. These processes are very exciting for all of us in the creative arts.
Classical dance is “classical” because of its highly evolved methods of body and mind training. Classical dance training of course gives one control over the body and all its micro-parts. Even the small muscles around the eyebrows and the neck are brought under the dancer’s voluntary control. But the body is just one element in the dancer’s armoury.
The mind and concentration is equally potent. The classical training works towards developing grit, determination and focus on a single aim. This mind-training is a fabulous aspect of classical dance training that every workplace and management school must learn from and adopt.
Additionally, classical dance teaches many other aspects of our culture: history, philosophy, music, rhythm. It teaches us how to connect with one’s emotions, poetry, literature, aesthetics, textiles, jewellery, allied crafts, and yoga. Dance is a single window to all these skills. It is because dancers are trained in so many complex aspects that they become empowered to tackle any aspect of communication—verbal, non-verbal and also communicating for social change. Every fully trained classical dancer can become a communicator. What you wish to communicate is purely up to the individual. Yet, the skills for doing so effectively are there in every dancer. As a dancer, I wish to “en-dance the universe!” because I know I can! Greetings on World Dance Day 2015..