'Dance' earned a new dimension when it was brought out of the proscenium. It crossed its own boundaries and became much more than a mere act of entertaining the audience. Dance was now getting closer to self expression. De-codification of a specific dance style gave birth to modern dance which eventually led to contemporary dance we see today. 'Challenging your own physical and emotional boundaries, constantly questioning your own movement pattern and responding through movement to the situations you see or face' formed a strong foundation for making a dance. But, there are many more challenges that a contemporary dancer comes across today in India.
"One of the biggest challenges one faces in a city like Mumbai is training." says Avantika Bhal Goyal, a budding contemporary dance practitioner. There are many institutes offering diploma programs and community classes, but an aspiring contemporary dancer finds it difficult if he wishes to explore beyond the technique class. In a way they are left on their own as the community practicing contemporary dance is too fragmented. This also leads to a difficulty in exchanging and sharing ideas. She also says, "The platforms to showcase work are even fewer and not as many opportunities are given to independent artists." One of the primary reasons for a situation like this is what we discussed in the previous article. Since contemporary dance art is in its developing stage in India, the audience has still not accepted it completely.
"Artistically, when presenting a piece to the audience one is faced with the dilemma of 'how much is too much?'. Is it okay to present work and let the audience discover their own journey while experiencing the performance? Should one provide at least a few anchor points so that the audience is able to enter the same space and zone as that of the performer's? A lot of times contemporary movement is hard to decipher and people are left feeling confused because of lack of comprehension. Yet, spoon feeding the audience is not the answer. This however, would change if there was more work being presented and slowly one would learn to read the language of contemporary dance and movement without necessarily looking for meaning in each move. This becomes a viscious circle as artists do not have enough support to showcase their work even if they wanted to bring something new to the fore." , says Leon Pinto, another contemporary dance artist.
In this journey of creating awareness, one meets dancers claiming to be contemporary dancers who in reality possess half baked knowledge about the dance form. Let me share a personal experience here. During a telephonic conversation with one of such self proclaimed contemporary dancers, I got a chance to learn how this entire self proclamation functions. They feel that Martha Graham modified ballet and that is how contemporary dance form was conceived. Also, it is a structure free dance form that has no technique involved. People come to the dance class to have fun and hence we teach them a few barrel turns and cartwheels. For the first time ever I did not feel any regrets to have lost the job even before I got it as that dancer had a nice piece of my mind. I fear not to say that such dancers are creating unnecessary challenges to the contemporary dance community that is making constant efforts to spread its periphery.
Further, since contemporary dance form is still stuck in that viscious circle, most of its practitioners have to resort to popular dance forms in terms of earning their livelihood. There is hope though, as more and more artists across the globe are coming together to fulfill their need to collaborate, exchange ideas and explore their own physical language. Many forums are emerging with a vision to offer discussions, meetings, workshops and film screenings as an attempt to connect dancers. There is certainly a slow positive shift in the arts scene and hopefully this will move us in the right direction.
Janhavii V. Pathak
(Founder, Purple Feet)
It took me some time to recollect my thoughts and proceed with the conversation.
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