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Re-imagining the University
- Dr. Kaustavi Sarkar

November 18, 2020

How can one find resilience in loss of livelihood? This article hopes to model an institutional solution to the pandemic by creating communities of practice across sectors - higher education and gig economy. Nevertheless, dance studies and arts policy scholar, Sarah Wilbur critiques "a celebratory stance toward the adaptive resiliency of artists amidst the mass estrangement and economic losses of the present" due to the high risk of exploitation of creative resilience. Noted Odissi artist Sharmila Biswas shouted out a clarion call for the professionalization of the artist fraternity especially in the pandemic induced dilemma regarding the virtual dissemination of performative content. Wilbur and Biswas both point towards artists' rights to make a living through art-making. Artistic content creation and dissemination require entrepreneurial skills.

While discussing the lack of entrepreneurial education in the gurukuls or the Indian classical dance conservatories in the backdrop of arts entrepreneurship as a discipline, Jasmine Pradeep Gajare argues for the need to instill a sense of drive and individual decision making capabilities in students for ensuing successful careers as artists. Gajare proposes the inculcation of entrepreneurial qualities, such as "awareness, sensibility and desire. An awareness of one's own potential and opportunities that either exist or can be created. A sensibility to subtle signs in communities, where dancers and other artists can make their talents and skills meaningful and finally the desire to explore, to realize one's own artistic dreams" (Gajare 362).

Higher education can be such an incubator for practitioners' reorientation of body-mind systems allowing them project-based development through curricular intervention on arts entrepreneurship. In the rest of the article, I describe the process of building communities of practice across the global Indian classical dance fraternity through institutional programming at a time of alienation.

Artistic resilience has translated into entrepreneurial focus during this moment of change and crisis. Odissi artist/ scholar Nandini Sikand beautifully describes the dialectic of drishti (focused gaze) and darshan (divine manifestation in the act of seeing) while describing the incessant interplay between social and the embodied factors in the dancing body. The act of enhancing visuality remains central either in embodying choreographic nuances or finding the spiritual connectivity. Seeing can be a powerful tool, according to choreographer-educator Liz Lerman. Lerman's notion of toolbox mentality where one learns by noticing one's propensities through problem-solving. Arts management scholar Diane Ragsdale argues that noticing is central to an entrepreneurial mindset since with the shifting and discriminating focus, perspectives formulate where normative thinking breaks apart. Sikand's drishti-darshan dialectic of focused gaze leading to manifestation of new ideas can be applied to what artist Parvati Rajamani calls due process during the COVID-19 crisis.

My interview with over forty artists from June to October 2020 also bear evidence of artistic resilience where majority of them remain process-oriented through reading, writing, questioning, and observing. Dance movement therapist Angira Chakrabarty Dasgupta mentions how social isolation features in her structured movement exercises while academic/ soloist Shreelina Ghosh uses this time for music composition and choreography. Odissi Dance Company founder, Aparupa Chatterjee finds online modes of content dissemination following the subscription model while dance-scholar Pompi Paul finds semblance across Indian and Balinese dances. Prominent institutions namely Srjan, Orissa Dance Academy, and Mahagami Gurukul have started offering lessons on repertory, theory, and practice through the virtual medium. I argue that by sharpening their performative awareness, sociopolitical sensibility, and innermost desire, institutions as well as individual artists hone in their focused awareness towards a transformative sensibility desirous of a sustainable futurity of the performing arts.

Equipping artists with practical and theoretical skills within arts entrepreneurship remains my answer in reimagining the role of the university in the future of the arts. During this moment of introspective awareness combined with social alienation and lack of performative outlets, it seems pertinent to build an online community of artists who might want to utilize this time towards transformative futures and growth. As an artist traversing higher education, Indian diaspora, and international concert contexts, I offer a platform for conversation across sectors through a certification course offered through the continuing education initiatives at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The Indian Classical Dance Pedagogy Certificate, offered in partnership with the Department of Dance at UNC Charlotte, is a theoretical take on formal, standard, and innovative procedures that can be employed in the teaching and learning of Indian classical dance. Focusing on standardized dance education practices in India, US diaspora, and higher education, this program brings in perspectives of established educators in the field of performance, creative practice, and scholarship. This certificate also includes a module on arts administration and management as tailored towards Indian classical forms of expression.

In the summer 2020 iteration of this venture with over seventy-five participants, aspiring and seasoned dance educators working in various ICD genres met with advanced students seeking training in standardized dance education standards. In this certification course, the Guru-Shishya model of teaching and learning within the precincts of Indian classical dance (ICD) pedagogy meets the strictures of dance standards in the Euro-American contexts by multiple specialists in dance pedagogy. With the increasing number of ICD students interested to pursue higher education and a career in academia, the need of the hour remains in creating conversations across the immersive and the methodical pedagogical modalities as established within the ICD conservatoires and US academia respectively.

This venture within continuing education bears the democratic impulse of university education where the curricular impacts both at the scale of the institutional and that of the individual. The pandemic has induced a discursive turn in the ICD sector where the performative, the creative, the pedagogical, and the entrepreneurial jointly envision a sustainable futurity.

Works cited
- Biswas, Sharmila. Personal Interview. 1 November 2020.

- Bonin-Rodriguez, Vakharia. "Arts Entrepreneurship Internationally and in the Age of Covid-19."
Artivate, vol. 9, no. 1, University of Arkansas Press, May 2020, p. 38.

- Gajare, Jasmine P. "Artrepreneurship in Education and Professional Life With Special Reference to Indian Classical Dance Artists in Selected Cities of Maharashtra State."
International Multidisciplinary E-Research Journal, vol. 96, no. B, p. 360-363.

- Lerman, Liz. "An Atlas of Creative Tools: 3 Samples"
- Rajamani, Parvati. "Artists and Covid" Global Rasika, July 2020.

- Wilbur, Sarah Wilbur, S. (2020). "It's Hard to Stay Optimistic" Duke Arts.

Odissi soloist Dr. Kaustavi Sarkar is Assistant Professor, Department of Dance, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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