Thursday, 17 May 2012

Benefits of Dance

By Rajyashree Ramesh

This is one of the two prize-winning articles reproduced from the souvenir published during the Natya Kala Conference convened by Shanta Dhananjayan in December 2010 and 2011.

A recent article in The Hindu about teaching Bharatanatyam for its therapeutic benefits to women and housewives acknowledges the importance of making dance accessible to all genres of participants. Even while dance continues to enjoy a professional standard, with the necessary training being imparted that grooms dancers for a performing career, such an acknowledgement coming from one of the stalwart guru-s of Chennai, who is known for the professional dancers he has brought forth, underscores the fact that it is equally important to make the same professional standards of training available to those who may not be aiming at or reaching out for the stage. It exposes the relevance that is being given to its practice in a modern world, where we are looking beyond categorisations and segregations. It is an important step in the right direction. This aspect however also poses challenges to teachers, both in the methods of teaching and the approach to dance in general.

Those teaching abroad have long faced these challenges. These experiences however I think enable refining one’s sensibility towards the relevance and essence of movement and expression as such. In countries where dance or the particular styles of dance like Bharatanatyam are not part of the mainstream cultural practice, one does not always have young aspirants, where parents are keen to send them to classes. Often adults of all ages enroll themselves. Also class frequencies are difficult to maintain. As a teacher one thus faces situations, where traditional methods of teaching don’t work in all the cases. One has to set priorities and negotiate possibilities, wondering if and how such students should or need to be put through the rigours of learning. Nevertheless the interest of these students becomes a driving and motivating force to teach them. Over the years one realises that it is possible to enhance their abilities, give them the benefits of movement and expression and help them acquire the knowledge in the art. But of course it also means that performing on stage might not be the product. The sense of achievement has to be negotiated from different or rather differentiated perspectives.

Thus we face the challenge of looking at the teaching methodologies and of the qualifications of a teacher.

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