Written by Dhruv Taware
In the world of art, which often carries the tag of being elitist and inaccessible, the internet has long been accepted as the great leveller, often breaking down the barriers of accessibility, bringing the haves and the have-nots on a level playing field. Bharatnatyam exponent, Priyadarsini Govind, who has extensively worked on “inclusivity”, agrees. “Everyone has access to the internet today. Those who weren’t exposed or had never seen a Bharatnatyam performance, can now see it easily. And if there is interest, they can find a teacher at the end of the street. I definitely feel that technology has made the art form even more inclusive, accessible and more democratic, not limited to only a few.
Everyone is blogging, posting pictures of their performances,” says Govind, also the former director of the Kalakshetra Foundation. Govind will take the stage in Pune today.
However, like every other thing, there is a down side to this too. “People may get easy access to it but if you want to learn the real art, one must know there are no shortcuts,” says Govind, who adds that the consumption culture of the world wide web, where terms such as brilliance are used with ease and performers often gauge their success by likes on videos, what’s lost is the fact that dance needs years of practice for understanding and internalisation, before one can even begin to speak of it.
When it comes to accessibility and change over the years, Govind who is considered one of the most celebrated Indian Bharatanatyam dancers, is happy that dance is considered a much more viable a career option compared to when she started out. “During our times it was still not a career choice. Art was seen more as a hobby, something that you did as an extracurricular activity and not as a mainstream vocational career. But today students look at it as a full-time career. It’s not limited to just performance, you have choreographers, some of them work in lighting, some in stage craft. There are so many different options and a lot of them do dance and production, there are freelancers so it’s a very interesting and encouraging trend,” says Govind,
And while there are greater number of dance schools and institutions, Govind still believes in the guru-shishya parampara. “Institutional learning is perhaps good when you do it as a graduate curriculum programme, but to learn the art itself, it is important to have a teacher and grow with the teacher. So I believe in the Gurukul system,” she says.
She adds that through the decades that she has grown as an artiste, Bharatanatyam itself has undergone a lot of change. Govind feels that the change is inevitable and doesn’t really see a line between new choreography and the ‘traditional’ form. And she has no insecurities. “I don’t think the art form will ever lose its identity or become absolute or become irrelevant because of changes. The fact is that the way we are dancing today isn’t anything like it was 30 years ago. While it carries the history it is also moved forward,” she says.