How can dance teachers continually provide a success path for their students?
- Ramaa Venugopalan
June 19, 2021
The journey of a teacher in art is a long, arduous unique path with each student. When the performative phase begins, the challenges are far more complicated. In today's art world where mostly every dancer is a performer / teacher, I do wonder how much can each of us pave the path for our students? How much can we push them towards a successful performative journey, with top notch performance experiences, exposure and ensure alongside that we are also growing?
This becomes exceedingly challenging especially when both the teacher and the taught are both actively performing. Earlier, teachers would only teach, conduct and plan performances of their disciples. The lines were clear. A capable and knowledgeable teacher could churn out many successful students, and students would either stay the course or find their own journey ahead. The scene now has changed immensely. It is not enough to just impart art, but also constantly find performance opportunities for the students.
Every other performer is a teacher which means, the space is shared. Often festivals host teachers and students in different slots but on the same platform. The only difference is that a prime slot is reserved for the teacher. When a performing teacher becomes popular, students swarm, hoping to ride the wave of success. Rightly so. Students are equally ambitious and willing to work, emulate, imbibe, imitate, do whatever it takes to be the next in line.
When this rigmarole becomes an endless function of churning tons of students each vying with the other and willing to work even harder to jump to a higher spot, the dynamics become exceedingly tiring and complicated.I wonder, what then is the way forward? All performers who are also good teachers cannot always provide long ladders for students to climb. And teachers who can, cannot accommodate many on one ladder. And students who want to jump higher will keep finding other ladders to climb.
It is an unequal world. The art eco-system is not fair by any standards and who is on what slot is not an outcome of talent alone. It takes one to be savvy in many more ways than just focus on imparting the art. This is true for both the teacher/performer and the taught.
As I mull over these thoughts, a bit about my own journey alongside my students, this quote mentioned by the legendary Swapnasundari comes to mind. "It's not a teacher's onus to create platforms for students. It's the teacher's onus to create students for platforms." (Swapnasundari, Narthaki.com, 2009).
I recall this often. More power to those performing teachers who can constantly and consistently pave way for themselves and for their students. And for those who are unable to do so, this quote provides solace.
Just some dancing thoughts!
Ramaa Venugopalan is a performer and teacher of Bharatanatyam from Bangalore, for a little over three decades.
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