Watch and Learn

A recent survey I did on Instagram gave me some very interesting insight and made room for a lot of engaging discussion. The question was “What motivates you to attend a dance performance of a dancer who isn’t your friend/family”

The responses I got were interesting because there was a clear difference between a dancers response to that of a non dancer. As a performer, I wanted to understand how to engage classical art with more audience. As dancers, its our duty to take our art forward and connect with more people. I was heartened to see how many non dancers came forward to support the arts and for this I am very grateful. As the population of people attending live concerts is decreasing each year, every single member in the audience is integral irrespective of their reason for being there.

A lot of people told me that they look for interesting themes, promotion material, concepts and ideas. This seems to be the drawing factor to motivate most non-dancers to attend dance performances. They expect to see something new, different and unique. Marketing and publicity plays a huge role. Sometimes just getting to know about shows through Facebook events or Instagram posts brings in audience.

As society is migrating towards a pop-culture, people expect to see something fresh, unique and entertaining with classical arts as well. While I agree with the essence of this – I think every art form has its own purpose and evolution process. Bharatanatyam is evolving even as I write this blog. And although a Margam may seem less interesting than a new fresh theme, there is a certain beauty to how each dancer interprets and performs a traditional repertoire. No two dancers can be identical even if they come from the exact same background or practice the same art form. We are human after all. We think, act and express differently. That is where lies the beauty of classical art.

There are also people who go to watch classical dance performances just to get in touch with their roots and traditions. And if the quality of the show they attend can meet expectations, the art gains a new Rasika.

Dancers themselves go to watch shows with a different agenda. Most of the dancers who spoke to me said that they go to learn from watching. And I think as young budding artists, this is the right attitude to have. Dancers know the hard work that goes into getting those lines, aramandi, talam and technique right. It doesn’t come easily and we are usually kinder and less judgmental towards our peers. Infact, if the performer is open to it, feedback can be very useful and constructive for both sides in these kind of situations.

I have always said that a persons dancing is a reflection of their true self. And when we watch performances, the truth is bare and visible. We know not to be unkind when we go to attend an arangetram. Similarly, when a show is ticketed or publicized as something innovative, we automatically have expectations. We can tell when something is strung together without thought, and we can see if the artist has put in the practice. Whether the final product is technically brilliant or content is individually relatable, we expect to see the hard work, research, thought and effort reflect on the performance.

Personally I like to attend shows without expectations. When its a seasoned artist, I look for satisfaction and inspiration. There is usually a much deeper depth of content and communication. These are the performances where I am taken in and usually come out feeling elated by the magnitude of the art form – The shows I attend purely to enjoy dance in all its glory. I also like to watch as many other dances as possible (live and online) At this point in my career, I think there is something positive to learn from everybody. It could be somewhere I am current lacking or finding something that captured my attention, that I can potentially implement into my own dancing. The more I watch, the more I learn. When you get so used to a certain way of dancing, you don’t often notice some things lacking in yourself unless you see it shine through others.

In conclusion, be open, accepting and humble. Whether you are an artist or not, try to watch as many performances as possible. Thanks to all the people who responded to this question and helped shape this blog 🙂

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