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Technology: a boon or doom for the dancer?
- Isabel Putinja, Bangalore

July 31, 2009

Technology has become an intrinsic part of contemporary life. From cell phones to the Internet to digital television, technology is used on a daily basis by the young and old, the rural and urban.

When the performance of Indian classical dance moved from the outdoor temple mandapa to the indoor theatre stage, technology was inevitably incorporated into its presentation. Lighting and amplification are some of the earliest elements of technology introduced to the stage. Today of course this technology is a lot more sophisticated. The use of digital imagery, computerized lighting design and digital sound effects are only some examples.

These new technologies provide endless possibilities for dancers to enhance their productions and incorporate creative elements into their work by adding an extra dimension. Interestingly, the creative possibilities offered by new technologies only seem to have been embraced by artistes exploring more contemporary styles or themes in their work. Schools training dancers in contemporary dance like Bangalore's Attakkalari, even include lighting, stagecraft and digital technology in their curriculum.

Why then are classical dancers so technology shy? There could be multiple reasons, not least economical considering that dancers have tiny budgets to work with. Some classical purists may feel that technology is superfluous. Others may fear criticism that technology is only gimmickry which will distract from the dance. Worse, some may fear being criticized for exactly this reason.

When used intelligently and effectively, technology can definitely enhance a production by highlighting certain elements of choreography, emphasizing important passages, introducing imagery, or adding other innovative flourishes. However, when a production is heavily dependent on technology, there is always the risk that any unexpected technical glitch will compromise a performance. This also requires a theatre with the necessary technical equipment and support, which may not always be available. In a sense, the use of technology can make or break a performance. This is perhaps why dancers hesitate to embrace it too closely.

Isabel is Canadian but living in Bangalore for the past two and a half years. She is a freelance writer, has learnt Bharatanatyam and is now a student of Odissi. This article was written as part of the dance writing workshop conducted by from July 18 - 24, 2009 in Chennai.

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