STATE OF THE ART
Keeping dance alive
Problems and prospects - V.P. DHANANJAYAN
In treatises on Indian theatre traditions, natya has been described as a group effort to educate the illiterate, to enlighten the literate and entertain the enlightened. ‘Drisya kavya’ or visual media was an integral part of our system of education. The divine theory of origin of natya enunciated in the Natya Sastra clearly states the concept, method and purpose of this group activity. Group presentations in any form of art or activity had a positive impact on the human mind and were common through the ages. They prevailed until modern man started becoming more and more individualistic.
Economic conditions also contributed to the fragmentation of theatre groups. When kings, landlords, feudal society and temples maintained such groups of artistic activities, the artists had no problem training and maintaining a high standard of performance. All the members in a group, including the lowest of the lot, imbibed a comprehensive knowledge of the art forms they were attached to and this spirit of discipline, devotion and dedication elevated the presentation to a sublime level of spirituality. But when royal and feudal patronage started dwindling for various reasons including invasion and slavery under British rule, smaller and fragmented groups emerged, giving way to solo performances of classical dance and music concerts. As a result, in the recent past we have seen Bharatanatyam emerge as a solo presentation, which also boosted the individualistic calibre of the performing artist. The objective of this article is not to probe into the past, but to highlight the problems faced now by our performing artists in general, and Bharatanatyam artists in particular.
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