International Dance Day is celebrated the world over on April 29. It is a global celebration of dance, created by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, the main partner for the performing arts of UNESCO. No one can undermine the effect of a live performance. The experience of alert minds bonding with each other through the arts. A silent exchange of energy, a silent connection giving rise to multiple emotions. A few weeks back this medium suddenly came to a standstill. With the country under lockdown, live performance spaces are closed. Empty stage, vacant seats. But the show must go on. And it did. Every challenge comes with opportunities. NCPA and many such veteran organisations started their online screening from their archival treasures.
As an arts manager at the NCPA, going online has given us the opportunity to add art more to the lives of our audiences. With live shows we were able to only reach out to people who can physically visit our venues but with online we reach out to even that lady who perhaps has never stepped out of her kitchen.
My grandmother listened to the radio as she cooked. Those memories of Indian classical music drenched in her mild spices still linger in that space. Growing up her kitchen was no less a space that I connected with good art. An experience dotted with explanations of ragas or stories of wondrous sadhanas of acclaimed artistes as she chopped away. This course into music appreciation was no less for a young mind as mine. She always missed not being able to watch dance. Today she would have been happy.
Every time we have a screening of our music and dance shows, we have audiences sharing photos of themselves – at their homes, with their kids watching an Indian classical music or a dance show. Online surely has helped us reach out better. It has created a new performance venue for us. Both to perform and to experience…
With opportunity comes the necessity of focussed research and planning so that the presentations do justice to the art and the artiste. And with that also comes the topic of sustainability.
I know NCPA and all organisations who ticket their shows have put in a lot of effort in creating this habit of paying for good art. With a lot of content now being shared for free, though a beautiful way of reaching out in such tragic conditions but with it is also a growing concern of losing the habit of paying for the arts. This contribution is important. Though in most cases box office collection for the classical arts barely cover the expenses of putting up the show but this participation from the audience in acknowledging the efforts and years of hard work by the artistes are important. It is important to that young kid sitting with her parents watching Indian classical dance with a paid subscription to believe in the talent that she has. A confirmation that her dancing talent matters to the world as much as her skills in solving trigonometry.
So what kind of content then should be free online? It’s tough to answer this. Probably something which can’t be recreated or has been extensively performed (and some investment has been recovered). I feel new content (unless supporting a cause) should be reserved for the special person who gives us the respect of creation with subscription.
- By Swapnokalpa Dasgupta- Head- (Odissi dance artist) and Dance Programming, NCPA.