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Paying for a performance
A dancer's perspective
- Divya Anand

April 24, 2024

Recently, I happened to see an Instagram video where Ms.Anita Ratnam was beseeching artistes to not pay and perform. It was, I suppose, in the context of the coveted Margazhi season. However, it got me thinking if we could respectfully explore the greys here. And don't get me wrong, I definitely empathize with her perspective about not compromising on the beauty and quality of the art form. I myself recently had to pay for a performance, it was a truly nominal amount and before I wanted to take myself on a guilt trip, I thought, why not use some more lenses on this topic!

For starters, it was quick and convenient. A little background here would help, I think. I had a long stint with dance for about 22 years through school and college till I got married, had 2 kids, a nice job in the IT industry, till I wake up one day and realize that I am just a stone throw away from 40. With new ailments cropping up, I was determined to restart dancing, in the process, heal and reconnect with my earlier raw self which had gone lacklustre. I was at a loss, because things have evolved so much, and although I had grand ideas, I was clueless.

While I was ruminating, a good friend suggested one pay-to-perform opportunity. I grabbed it! It was finally something. All went well, and I made some great memories and super photos (back then we didn't have great cameras or photographers accessible to us. My arangetram photos remind me of the roadrunner on a show who is absolutely unable to be captured in one piece). As an analogy, I thought this new pay-to-perform concept was like the cloud offerings, Azure or AWS where you don't worry about the operational tasks, deploy your application faster. So, stage, lights, audience, marketing are all taken care of, just jump in and perform, it did sound neat! In terms of providing opportunity for kids and Gurus and the whole experience of getting on stage, I think these events do very nicely.

I am now privy to a wide set of similar events. It feels like I could have a party every week travelling to a different place, life would be so much fun. I also questioned myself if this would take me on a linear path toward something bigger or I would mostly be going in circles.

But I also have some ideas that I would like to turn into productions and go through the whole rigmarole. That would take time and would have to be balanced with keeping up the practice and sorting out the logistics, alongside my regular day job and other responsibilities. Looks daunting for sure, but who said anything worth pursuing was easy? After all the efforts, one may still end up dancing to just a small audience. However, I believe that for me it's about the process, and the constant struggle of prioritizing my artistic pursuit. And for that, I think all modes would do equally well, because all that matters is to judge less and feel more.

So, is pay-to-perform really a bad trend? Does it deprive the well-deserved of their opportunities? Are gurus and dancers working their way through these dynamics anyways?

Disclaimer: Just my lay-dancer perspective, remember, don't judge, show love, stay well.

(All views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author.)

Divya Anand
Divya Anand is a dancer and IT leader currently based in Bangalore. Recently she has published a collection of her poems titled 'All About Sweet Nothings', available on all major online stores.

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