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Art for art's sake
by Prakriti Bhaskar, Mumbai

September 5, 2004

Strict adherence to tradition along with a strong value system form the basis of training that inculcates a sense of love and commitment to the art form amongst students. Over the years, the students gain a high standard of performance with many of them winning prestigious national scholarships and performing at festivals of classical dance at the national and international levels. But what is the purpose of art?

With dance becoming a fashionable hobby amongst the urban educated society, the percentage of children pursuing the classical arts is still very small. Reflecting on the present day scenario, I feel that in a metropolis like Mumbai, imparting training in a classical idiom such as dance is a challenging task. Although parents are keen to enroll their child for a dance class, few are aware of the commitment it requires. Usually a ‘performance' at the end of 5-6 years of training is all that they are looking for. In a city like Mumbai where anything sells, such ignorance has led to the churning out of dancers by a dime or dozen. A change in the mind-set can only be brought about by an awareness of the ‘purpose of art'. It is very important therefore to impart not just a technique but also a vision of the art to the student.

Classical dance is a serious mind-body discipline that slowly leads to the blossoming of individual talent. Years of hard work and rigorous training seek to transform the individual into an artiste for whom the pursuit of art becomes a life-long journey of evolution of the spirit. In his/her creative journey, all else (performances, awards, rewards etc.) are only a ‘means' to the ultimate goal where the art is an ‘end' in itself. Dance then becomes a source of great joy, creative expression & artistic excellence of the individual.

An ideology such as this ‘ART FOR ART'S SAKE' leaves little room for mundane expectations or a frivolous attitude. Only when training imparts a strong value system from the very beginning of the artistic journey, does an art become a ‘meaningful experience' or else it remains a mere skill. Only then can we say that we have passed on a rich cultural tradition to a generation that will respect, value and contribute to its growth and evolution.

Choreographers, teachers and dance exponents Prakriti Bhaskar and Deepak Mazumdar, founders of Shiladhish Art & Research Institute in Khar in central Mumbai, have been training students in Bharatanatyam for over a decade.

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