Friday 16 February 2024

Ekah! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Ekah danta... runs the stuti on Ganesha.... But in dance finding qualified soloist of substance is not easy. It calls for minimum twenty years of work: Five years foundation, five in training, ten in performing experience professionally. So average is forty by the time one reaches national stage. By then either half have married or have families or no possibility to stay with the dance. 40-60 is the best run for a soloist, other things being equal.

The art of the soloist had steadily been on the decline, especially in Kathak. Bharatanatyam has enough volume so staying power is equal. Orissi is fifty-fifty. Group works is the vogue. It is so, as a teacher can show many students on stage at one go. The guru today is just a title, mostly. Solo training means focused attention. Teachers have assembly like training. Solo art is all but diminished. Reasons are many: first of all, gurus are not gurus but mostly art-teaching schools. More the number of students, more the earnings, outreach and social standing. This leads to a rather flimsy foundation. Gurus or teachers say parents are more ambitious and force them to fast-track and do debuts quickly so their ward arrives on the scene quickly! That helps visibility if not marriage market. Lastly, the students themselves. They change gurus like they change wardrobe or hair styles. Some are caught between wanting to be successful and stars while some think they are born stars. 5k followers on social media make them feel they have arrived. They don't have the staying power to learn to talk first before learning to dance first. Social media and self-reviews give most a fake sense of belief that they are good or worse, relevant. End result of above three: sub-standard end result, shows to empty halls and no real professional standing. No solos for sure.

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  1. Wonderful . Written so well as usual. Solo festivals are the need of the day. Yes I agree with you that the Kathak dancers of Pune stand apart . They are excellent. Kudos to Shama ji for that !

  2. Having known Ashishji since I was in my early teens, I have grown from being scared of his presence to respecting his honest unfiltered opinions over the last three decades. In today's day and age, when all criticism is but commercial, his comments emerge as heartfelt and very close to the truth of an artist's path. Needless to say his encouragement means a lot and those who take his criticism in the right spirit, stand to gain much more in their artistic journey!

  3. I missed the name and venue even tho I enjoyed the article thank you