Tuesday 8 March 2022

Interview - Gauri Diwakar on surviving two years of the pandemic - Shveta Arora

Each dancer and artist has responded in their own distinct ways to these two years of Covid-19 restrictions and the absence of physical performances for most of that duration. There was the obvious and immediate financial distress caused by a sudden loss of income in March 2020. But apart from that, the overnight suspension of all art and cultural activity left many artists, especially dancers, without their daily 'fix' of riyaaz and performance for many months. Being unable to practice their very physical vocation, combined with the fear and paranoia of Covid cases and deaths and the lack of physical interaction with others, took a toll on the mental health of many dancers and artists, many of whom have spoken about these struggles.

I spoke to Kathak dancer and teacher Gauri Diwakar, a leading performer and choreographer, about how she survived without even riyaaz for nearly five months in 2020, how her dance life slowly took on a new form in the 'new normal', and how she has gradually chosen a side in the debate over online performances.

Responding to the lockdowns as an individual and as a dancer...
I did my last tour in February 2020 for SPIC MACAY and I remember thinking, it's been far too hectic recently, let's take a break for a week and then start doing riyaaz again. I had a show in Kokrajhar on 16 or 17 March anyway, and before that, shows in Delhi and lec-dems for SPIC MACAY, so that's when I took a little break, in February 2020. And right after my break, all these shows started getting cancelled one by one. I had been in London in January before that, I had seen what was happening (in terms of the spread of Covid and the restrictions), but I had not imagined anything of this sort happening in India. At first, I cancelled my classes sometime between January and March because there are many children in my batches, and after that there were all these show cancellations. These came as a shock; this had never happened to me before.

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