Tuesday 12 May 2020

Dance distorted during pandemic - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

We are now living in a world of the internet where all manner of teacher/taught relationships have gone for a toss- not excluding the performing arts. A sea change indeed for the dance world we have loved to proudly tout as 'classical', where at one time, the Guru/shishya interaction was through 'Gurukula Vaasam' - considered the sine quo non for learning! The constant physical proximity of living in the home of the Guru (nothing less) paved the way for the student unconsciously imbibing the intricacies and totality of a tradition covering aspects not discussed in the formal classroom training.

All Gurus, this writer has spoken to, are unanimous that the live classroom with the throb of the students' response is the most effective adrenalin driving the Guru's teaching enthusiasm and with such responses as an aspect largely to be imagined on internet teaching, the task is made more exacting. Unlike music classes on Skype which have been in practice for some time, dance which involves the moving body seems to pose more problems. Says Aruna Mohanty, the Odissi dancer/teacher, "I am constantly itching to pat and straighten a slightly hunched spine, lift a sagging shoulder or correct a body slant in the wrong direction - while constantly realising that in this virtual proximity physical contact is impossible." She has now taken to making diagrams of the right body posture, the way knees are to be placed, and even the line that the hand movement traces in space. "My pictures show the starting position, the middle position and finally the concluding point showing exactly how the hand should move."

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