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Learning and Unlearning Dance

Cultural, Creative Industries

Learning and Unlearning Dance

Bhatt, Ashwini

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Our guest column this month is from a rather unusual quarter.

If we think of craft as skill and dance also as perfection of skill and both steeped in traditional knowledge systems Ashwini is rather concerned with the resistance amongst many practitioners and also consumers of dance to any form of change or experimentation and also the rather disturbing form of commercialisation being adopted for the knowledge to survive. Craft too suffers from this. Ashwini has written a personal piece for our July issue exploring these murky depths. Sometimes after dancing I ask myself: how do I see my training in dance? Am I merely re-producing what has been taught to me? Am I able to internalise what my hands and legs do? I am yet to find answers to these questions - it has been a process of searching. The dance schools would not want you to ask these questions. Most of the dancers would want to believe that Bharatanatyam is 'divine' and 'sacred', a form danced by lord Shiva and witnessed by Bharata, Nandi and other gods and hence cannot be and should not be questioned or changed by mortals like us. Just as our education system discourages us to ask questions, the dance education coaxes you to live in an illusion that 'traditional' can not be changed. As a student, few incidents made me re-think about what I was doing. I was learning padams, composed by Kshetrayya (a 11th C Telugu poet). I happened to read the translations of these padams by A K Ramanujam ('When God Is a Custome...

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