The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be hard for the performing arts, especially dance, with its protocols restricting physical pedagogy, performance and collaboration in what is essentially an in-person artform. While an unprecedented reliance on online modes has kept the show running for some creative and cultural organisations, groups and individual dancers, what does the future look like?
Dance stalwarts weight in on dance going the virtual way:
Geeta Chandran, guru, a Padma Shri recipient for Bharatanatyam, and founder-director of Natya Vriksha
In 2020, when the lockdown happened, the dance community went into digital overdrive. Classes moved online, performances too. Everyone was presenting everything they had on digital platforms. But in our enthusiasm, we overlooked that for dancers to survive, the digital media platforms also had to be monetised. No one paid attention to that, and everything was offered free of cost. That experiment was not sustainable in the long-term is what everyone has realised, and this time (in the second wave lockdown) we see much fewer freebies floating around on digital media. In the longer-term, I feel that at least in order to learn/teach dance, it will henceforth be a blended experience and digital tools for teaching/learning will be embraced by both gurus (mentors) and shishyas (disciples).
Swapnokalpa Dasgupta – Head of Dance at the NCPA
When the lockdown started, we all expected this to be over in months. Now it’s been more than a year and as we look back, we discover that Covid-19 had given rise to a new stage for the performing arts. Especially dance. Music had reached our homes long time ago through radio and record players, now we can take dance to every corner of the world. This stage is a new stage. It needs all our attention and support to develop into a platform that would effectively support the art form so as of now I am not judging or evaluating. We are experimenting, all are trying to figure out the best way to make use of this new space. As artistes we have always made choreographies having the physical stage set up in mind. Our generation has just started thinking the Camera way. Let’s give us sometime and in the meantime pat our backs and say that we are unstoppable. And then let’s gather again after a decade and determine whether we are ready to pull audiences etc. For now, let’s try to be more receptive, more sensitive, and more grateful for what we already have.
Ashley Lobo, choreographer, founder and artistic director of the Danceworx Academy of Performing Arts and Navdhara India Dance Theater
Dance is an intimate form of art where learning, teaching and performance are all connected to the tangible, physical presence of others. Connection is what every dancer aspires to but the pandemic has changed everything. How does one engage, connect, teach, learn, dance in the time of social distancing, masks, sanitation protocols and more? That being said, I do believe that the arts are essential especially in these times to remind people that we can find solace and hope together. Digital interpretations of what we can do with movement, how we can reach, and teach more people and most importantly connect, have helped dance professionals all over the world. Like our bodies, our minds are also flexible and we have adapted modules to online classes, reinvented business models, and are still evolving by performing virtually with other professionals across the world.
Within this online module we are challenging students and helping dance grow in India with Choreography Camps and Intensives that feature International experts in their respective genres. This gives Indian talent an experience of international standards of dance. I am currently using this very virtual medium to choreograph a piece highlighting the global issue of climate crisis for Company | E in Washington, DC, from the confines of my home! It is not an ideal way to instruct and learn or perform, but technology has helped us stay afloat. And as long as we can survive, we will find a way to thrive as well.
Bharati Shivaji, guru and a recipient of Padma Shri for Mohiniyattam
The Covid-19 pandemic truly has stretched itself far beyond what was expected, right from 2020 onwards. Dance being a visual art, a physical experience be it, performance or communication with an audience, or teaching in a class room, has now become a very painful and gruesome exercise. Unfortunately, one has to succumb to the present situation for want of a somewhat creative occupation.