The Indian Classical Dance Forms are Far From Lost!

Indian Classical Dance forms attract students from all ages.

Nrityachandam, an Indian classical dance program which was organized by the students of Shilpi Banarjee and Sarbani Dance academy was a beautiful experience covering Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Odissi and a few other fusion compositions. The Tilak Chronicle spoke to Sarbani Ghosh, who runs the Sarbani Dance Academy, experts from the interview are as below: 

What is the cultural scene of Pune city, with respect to Bharatnatyam and Odissi dance forms? 

We see significant interest in Indian Classical Dance forms in Pune, especially in Bharatanatyam. People in cities usually tend to prefer contemporary dance forms like Bollywood and Zumba. But in Pune you will see young girls and boys learning the traditional dance forms. 

Any classical form of art rarely gains mass popularity. This is a fact, that all of us who are involved in these art forms live with. Classical form of art is appreciated by selected set of audience who have inherited the appreciation of these art forms from their families or schools. For thousands of years they were passed from one generation to the other and still continue to do so. 

Pune too is no exception to that. Most of our students come from families where parents themselves were involved in such dance forms. 

How is your experience of teaching the next generation? Are they passionate about Indian classical dance forms? 

Our experience has been very positive so far. As the Director of Sarbani Dance Academy and as a dance teacher in an International school here in Pune, I interact with students every day. They are very serious about learning these dance forms even though their difficulty level is higher than contemporary art forms. I see a lot of interest and appreciation from their parents as well. 

Teaching Indian classical dance is like teaching grammar. It teaches you how to compose a dance. 

I always tell my students that even if they wish to excel in other more contemporary dance forms, their training in Bharatanatyam gives them the essential understanding of movements and expressions. Some of the finest Bollywood dancers like Madhuri Dixit-Nene, were trained classical dancers. 

My experience in teaching has made me realise that Indian classical dance needs a better storytelling. We need to brand it much better than what we have done so far. We need to explain the history, the context, the language, the heritage, the origin of these dance forms. I have observed that once students know these things, their interest is both high and sustainable. 

What should an individual with no training and background in these dance forms learn to appreciate this art form?

Reading about its history helps in understanding the context and origin of these dance forms. There is abundant information available on these dance forms, in almost all languages and formats on the internet. 

People can also watch videos on YouTube which help you in appreciating these art forms. These art forms are complex and beautiful and each performance has a story, a deeper meaning to it. One can acquire the skills to appreciate these forms by watching more and more performances. 

Even though there are several performances available online, nothing beats going to a performance and seeing it live. You can also meet and hear people who understand these art forms better. 

If you are planning to learn the art form, then you need guidance and education from a dance teacher/guru. This art form is meant for people who can sustain the passion and commitment required to learn it. There are no short cuts here. 

To help students understand these forms at a deeper level, we plan to collaborate more and more with other academies and dance Gurus in the city. We plan to conduct workshops and partner with Local Governments and NGOs in increasing the awareness of our classical dance forms.

Group dance performance at the event. Source: Author
Students of the Academy performing at Nrityachandam. Source: Author
Sarbani Ghosh

Sarbani Ghosh is an Indian classical danseuse specializing in Odissi and Bharatnatyam form of dancing.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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