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Dance as a profession
- Nayana Bhat, Bangalore

November 5, 2007

People always wonder at my taking up dance as a profession. Most recently, I was asked, "So how secure is your job? I mean, does it have a future?" Such questions leave me at a loss for words and gives the other person the pleasure of feeling triumphant at leaving me dumbstruck.

I am a dancer by profession and I face this question of "future" quite often. I am bored of this query, just as I'm bored of people's suggestions on how dance is a mere hobby and not a profession, how I can do it only if my (future) husband allows me to practice it (!!!), or how impractical it is to take up art for a living and so on and so forth. And, no, I won't bore you with the clichéd answers that I generally fall back on.

Every job is a challenge. It's a challenge to your ability to give in your best. You are given a task to perform. You give your inputs to it. You give in a part of your mind. You make sure the required ingredients are put in right proportions and finally the outcome fetches remarks according to the standards set. It is this entire procedure that gives you your monthly income. You are paid for doing the given job in the expected manner. I suppose all companies work like this, irrespective of the nature of the output.

I perform with a contemporary dance company called Nritarutya Arts Academy. We are a troupe of seven people, not a mere troupe but a registered trust. A proper business firm that is headed by an artistic director and run by all other typical designations that is typical of a business enterprise. We produce art. Our normal rehearsal hours vary between 4-5 hours a day, 6 days a week. And for shows, that goes up to 6-7 hours a day. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, such as Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Ballet, Jive, Mambo, Taikwondo, Kalaripayattu, yoga to name a few, we work on new choreographies, rehearse the old compositions, take lessons on various forms of dance and also take up fitness training, which is essential for our performance. The troupe has performed all over India and abroad.

But that is not where our job ends. In our office, we take up totally new roles. We, by ourselves, are PROs, accountants, clerks, cleaners, designers, editors, writers and several other vital things of the company. By the end of the day, we run a company, an organization that produces, identifies its consumers, markets its work to them, and serves them with the best of its work.

I am not talking about making art into a commodity. Art never is. That is why it is called art and not commerce. But what I am trying to convey is that art can be imparted in a professional manner. Just like any other job, any employment that follows a procedure. Art is not only a hobby that is done in free time for fun. Art, like any other enterprise, demands qualification, hard work, determination and focus. Exactly like in other trades, inefficiency does not work here. It demands the same marketing techniques and strategies that any entrepreneurship would ask for.

In such a scenario, how can one wonder if art can be a profession?! I would say, open your eyes and ears, and you will see that it already is one. And it surely commands a professional reception as well. As far as the "secure future" question is concerned, here's a small example. I am a journalist by instinct and by qualification. Before I took up dance, I worked for a renowned newspaper and eventually, a television channel. Great job, good salary, name, fame and so on. But my exotic love affair with dance did not give me a choice. I changed my stream of profession when the attraction got irresistible. The so-called "secure future" that the media offered me was no more. My question is, if my future offered to me by the media was so secure, why didn't it last?? It should have, if it was secure enough.

Well, it is just a way of looking at things. When people talk about future security, I am forced to believe, our future is the choice we make and to make a choice in what we excel is always secure.

There is an intriguing quality in art that most of us tend to conveniently overlook. It demands excellence. If you are not a thorough hardworking professional, you cannot survive in art. There it is, for all those who keep repeating their boring question on whether art can be a profession. Art has always been a profession; it is time to wonder if you are professional enough to fit in at all! I am, and I am loving it.

Nayana Bhat is a dancer of Bangalore based contemporary dance company Nritarutya.

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