On Day 5, the concluding day of the Natya Kala Conference hosted by Krishna Gana Sabha, two sessions, in contrasting content and focus grabbed the attention of the audience.
The first, presented by senior dancer Malavika Sarukkai on the ‘Dancer’s Body as Canvas’ featured three short excerpts from her choreographies. Malavika’s snappy demonstration got all the eyeballs in the hall and she too was so charged, that the feeling around was to have her continue with her presentation though the bell rang for ‘time up’.
Delhi-based Geeta Chandran anchored a session that looked at the Economics of Dance.
Geeta said that it was important today, to form a strong dance community and have some senior spokespersons who would present the case of all classical dancers, to the state, to corporates and sabhas.
Geeta also suggested that corporates be impressed of ‘Corporate Cultural Responsibility’ now that CSR had come to stay and that steps be taken to ask business supporters to be more transparent in funding and broad-base funding.
She also said that the spirit of volunteerism in the arts was missing. “We need people who take our ideas, productions and events to the bigger world to get better audiences,” Geeta said.
“We also want sabhas to pay all dancers. They must respect our dignity and if Madras can set standards, other places will follow,” she said.
Geeta’s presentation got many people, especially dancers and dance students excited.
Many stood up to talk about how some sabhas send out e-mails asking gurus to suggest 3/4 students to perform at their festivals and the fee they would have to pay.
Another said a city-based sabha that ran a music fest now ran a dance fest ‘because dancers were willing to pay to perform’.
Senior dancer Roja Kannan said that ABHAI, a association for dancers had been asking gurus not to send their sishyas for recitals which were ‘paid for’. “It is for us dancers to boycott organisers who seek our money and say a firm ‘no’.”, she added.
Roja said that sabhas need not tag dance festivals to the December season but host dance fests independently mid-year and feature the best talents. “As guru Dhananjayan always says, ticket all dance shows. The free entry practice must stop.”
Someone else in the audience said that some NRI artistes gladly ‘paid’ for their recitals in December-January and local talent got edged out.
A young dancer wondered how she would get dance opportunities if she was asked to keep away from sabhas who sought a fee or did not pay even a small amount to defray expenses.
A few people said that Kalakshetra could be asked to provide space for more independent dancers while Geeta Chandran said Kalakshetra must offer training in all major styles of Bharatanatyam.
There were two other lectures on Day 5 - Dr Sheela Nambiar spoke on how dancers needed regular medical/health check-ups, the need for fitness training and medi-care if they strained themselves.
Dancer Shobana spoke on her ‘multi-facted dance journey’