Recognizing the symptoms:
an Imploration for change.
A couple of months ago, I left the dance company that I’d been training at and working for. It was a relief to be free of the intensity of their rigorous schedule months and months of serious and intensive, often 12 hour long, dance days. There was suddenly time for the much-needed whiff of travel, fresh air, and rest! This was followed by a period of renewed enthusiasm: meeting new people, sampling workshops, witnessing diverse artistic styles, indulging in the culture that is Mumbai.
And then I found this article and I watched this video. I read their arguments: the actor’s obvious lack of training, her awful injury-inviting technique, the multitude of professionals that are available for the job, who feel fittingly insulted[especially as there is an appalling scarcity of opportunity and a disrespectful amount of wages rendered to them].
But to me, the real outrage was that my empathy towards the offended felt too familiar, too personal. My enthusiasm to experience all that was new and different on the dance scene, had already, previously, been embittered. Mumbai is the city of dreams, a ripe economy. There’s a dance studio around every corner with sub-par instructors; posters littering the walls of cafés and fuse boxes, pictures stolen off the web, often crudely put together, bearing different names: slight variations of the words academy, dance, arts or , studio.
While I am all for the proliferation of dance to every human soul, there must be a certain quality to the dance education that is offered. A well-founded desire for financial stability, coupled with a salacious market, has led to an overwhelming amount of half-baked teachers, lacking, often, the fundamental knowledge of the style that they seek to mint money off. Here, I find it important to note: I refer more to the western dance styles, such as Jazz or Contemporary [their Indian counterparts have managed to retain their stronghold on an excessively rigid cultural orthodoxy]. Each company is different enough, usually by a degree, employing means, such as adding a personalised version of Bollywood to the mix, or by employing the tricks of a dangerously untrained yet superficially ever-so-cool B-Boyer: while the ‘aunties’, in their trainers and tracks wander in ‘Kitty-party’ packs- a crusade against cellulite: the new-age aerobics hang.
At some point, a line must be drawn, a re-definition of dance and it’s many faces: Art, career, business, aesthetics, technique, passion, sensuality, education, fitness, experimentation, inspiration, culture, connection, love: a re-proportion of the balance of this multi-dimensional question.
All I can do is beseech every single dancer out there: you dance, for yourself; but when you teach, it is a responsibility that you owe every student- it is the service you offer: what does your conscience say?