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NeoNarthaki - A Special feature for World Dance Day.

We asked five young dancers to respond to, two intriguing questions about classical dance. Their insightful and thought-provoking answers shed light on the challenges, opportunities, and trends that are shaping the classical dance world. From the need to re-think our learning spaces to changing the way our festivals are curated, our dancers shared their perspectives on the current state and future of this art form.


Aranyani Bhargav, A Bharatanatyam dancer, Artistic Director, Vyuti Dance Company and Co-Founder, Re-Cognising Dance.

1. How do you think dance can reflect or respond to the social issues of our time?


A. I think whether or not dance reflects or responds to the social issues of our time depends entirely on the treatment, interpretation and intent of the dance and dancer. Also, dance doesn’t necessarily always have to reflect or respond to social issues, but when it does, the intent must be clear.


2. What is the one thing that you would like to change in the classical dance world today?


A. There is change happening in the “classical” dance world today. Having said that, there is resistance to change amongst some pockets of the dance world. I guess what I’d like to change, ironically, is the resistance to change.


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Preethi Bharadwaj - Bharathanatyam Dancer & Theatre Artist.

1. How do you think dance can reflect or respond to the social issues of our time?


A : We are all living in a world where access to know what is happening around us is not a tough one. However, does one want to respond to them is probably an important question that we should ask ourselves. I personally opine that the society that is brewing around us, shapes us as individuals and as a human being first and then as an artiste, I am unable to distance myself from that.


Reflection can happen in dance education spaces where we do not completely distance ourselves from that day's news or an issue that has been prodding for a while. Keeping in mind everyone's mental health, we need to build spaces (especially in dance education spaces) that enable learners to bring these to the classroom and have open discussions. However important it is to lose oneself in the dance and forget the present, I believe it is equally important that we also get back to it and be responsible citizens who identify as artistes.


Responding can happen when these discussions eventually, in an honest way, find their way to stage (or maybe not). I see social media also as a powerful tool here. Especially because it is everyone's stage. Responding can go both ways - exoticisation or as an honest one. As a community, I believe it is our responsibility to find our own way (individually first) to respond but never not to respond.


2. What is the one thing that you would like to change in the classical dance world today?


A. The classroom!


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Shreema Upadhyaya, Bharatanatyam Artist

1. How do you think dance can reflect or respond to the social issues of our time?


A. I think art in general, and a performing art such as dance in particular, has a unique way of highlighting social issues through the portrayal of timeless human emotions. Its versatility in reaching out to a sensitive audience, irrespective of the theme, to make one feel and not simply think rationally about what affects us all as a society makes it stand apart as a wonderful tool to influence minds.



2. What is the one thing that you would like to change in the classical dance world today?


A. Definitely how fast paced it is becoming. Classical dancers are being expected to churn out new choreographies and content constantly, and to be present and visible at all times to remain relevant. Such an environment doesn’t really allow the artist to truly learn, understand and explore their art form in the long run.


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K. Sarvesan - Bharatanatyam Artist


1. How do you think dance reflects or responds to the social issues of our time?


A. I think, in terms of Bharata Natyam, particularly in Chennai, it is not necessarily focussed upon reflecting and responding to social issues that we face today. It is more focussed on an other-worldliness -- striving towards preserving certain qualities that exist in a nostalgic past, or rather qualities that we have imagined to exist in a nostalgic past.

That’s how I think of Bharatanatyam at the moment in terms of what I witnessed in the 2022 season as well.

But I think this also offers those who come to watch Bharatanatyam or experienced rasikas who come, the opportunity to contrast their lived experience with that of this other-wordly character and I think this sort of imaginative space allows people to be inspired and think about a possibility that may free them of what their limited reality might be.

It is also a space that allows for people to contrast and rethink or rather remake their reality through having an ideal concept.


2. What is the one thing that you would like to change in the classical dance world today?


A. The one thing that I would like to change is the way we program performances, particularly within the Chennai dance season. Too many organizations have got into the habit of having “slots” and just filling those with anyone they can find.

One or two very good dancers that will bring people through the door and then other slots are simply filled without much thought given into the overall programming.

While we have to think about how we can make the arts run better from a business perspective, organisers must also come together to see how to balance this without giving up the quality of the overall festival/presentation.

But leaving that aside, I think just as an artist, the performers need time to create a feeling, to create an environment and in the same way, the rasikas and the audience need time to absorb these ideas.

So, when you have slot culture (performance after performance), you don’t really have time to take in what a dancer has shared with you. Sometimes what makes the performance great are the subtler things. However, because we are bombarded with multiple ideas from different people who are trying to do different things all the time, sometimes these performances become less meaningful because there are just too many of them.

I believe the way forward would be to see curatorship within the Chennai dance season.


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Paramita Saha - Performer, Curator & Arts manager.

1. How do you think dance reflects or responds to the social issues of our time?


For me the dancing body is a site for resistance. It has great power and audacity. It can challenge power structures. It is a site for play between politics and aesthetics. Dance therefore in its performativity has the power to influence and shift mindsets. Beyond celebration of festivals, entertainment and catering to the male gaze, dance has the power to stand up and came a comment on what is happening around us.


2. What is the one thing that you would like to change in the classical dance world today?


Dancers need to be look beyond the dance and look for the untold stories and the invisibisilation that continues to happen across forms. Commit to equitable training, ethics on the floor and backstage, openness towards other art and dance forms, consciousness of our environment and be vocal against injustices. Keep the dance going!



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Looking to expand your dancing horizons? We share here a list of curated opportunities for dancers. From festivals to workshops to residencies, we present relevant opportunities for dancers to learn,

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