being brown

Tom ta tari taaritha dhira Naa

Runs the newest tillana I am learning. In bharatanatyam, the tillana is the ‘wrap up’ dance; the one that concludes the performance. And in the true spirit of a conclusion, it contains all the elements of the style. It stretches the limits of a dancer and, at the same time, has a cathartic, ‘its all done, I have finished’ spring in its every step. The heady feeling that comes with finishing a performance requires something equally invigorating and strenuous to complement the mood of the dancer. Watching the tillana should make the audience want to take to the stage and jump around, wildly flailing their arms to the rhythm.

Much like that show So You Think You Can Dance. Before I shower my praises for this good talent hunt show, let me make it very clear that the new age reality shows and television talent hunt shows are rather despicable. I abhor them. I don’t think you need to expose so many people to ridicule in your hunt for talent. So theres more drama in it than substance. A producer of such a show recently said that these were platforms where ordinary people can have their 15 minutes of fame. The last time I checked, talent did not require that 15 minutes of fame for its development.

Having said that, however, I must confess that just such a reality talent hunt has  elicited my admiration. So You Think You Can Dance is a dance show constituted along the lines of the American Idol. Ofocurse it has all the elements that make a reality talent search show a commercial success; the rude judge, the frivolous judge, the judge that talks nonsense most of the time, a lot of drama, some ridiculous contestants ( who get eliminated rather early on, so things are kinda clean towards the end), and loads of suspense. Despite these faults, they do maintain a high standard of dancers and the energy they exude seems to be contagious.

There are two remarkable things about the show that makes it unique and worth a watch. One is the way in which novices to dance as well as seasoned dancers when exposed to a couple of months of training can become at par with each other. I say this because too often youngsters scoff at the idea of training and technique. A common rant is that if technique has to be taught, then there is no talent. This is perhaps the greatest error you can make as an artist and is also the reason why you are content with mediocrity. Dancers who have only grace, an innate ability to shake a leg,  or an ability to do unimaginable gymnastic feats to recommend them have found themselves dancing, performing like people who have had years of training just because they learnt technique. Technique is the best way to maximize your dancing experience. Note I have said nothing about what technique does to the viewer or the movement itself. The first idea of dance or any other art for that matter is about feeling the movement for yourself. Technique helps you do this. Technique is also about unwavering style or more like controlled wavering of style.

The second, and this is something that fascinates me every time I tune into this programme, is the unimaginable lengths to which the human body can be stretched in so short a time. Every week is a new dance, new synchronization, new lifts, new drops, entirely new styles, and all the dancers seem to do it effortlessly. If you compare some of the dancers from the first auditions to their final performances, you would be amazed at the changes they have gone through in a matter of weeks. The physical potential of the human body is, often, underrated.

A final caveat: If you were a contestant on this show, it sure is a great beginning. But, by no means, is it an end. Dance, is not only about technique, gymnastic abilities, physical endurance and performance. All of these are, no doubt, an integral part of being a dancer. Performing on stage with an audience helps improve all these functions. But dance is also about expressing, about ‘speaking’, about communicating. And by this I don’t mean telling a story, but how well you tell it. This has been rare in the show and even when spotted, that dancer has not been consistent with it. The judges too do not give it much importance. This ability, though, is not something that could be enhanced performing every week in front of an audience, it requires the dancer to practice alone and be his/her own audience. Sometimes dancers just need to relax and ask themselves why they are doing what they are doing.

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2 responses

  1. After reading this article I still need clarification on your comments!

    March 4, 2010 at 5:10 am

  2. sumanyav

    what clarification do you seek?

    March 4, 2010 at 10:01 am

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