Responses to The Chicago Toofaan!

November 29, 2006

"Why is it that Bharatanatyam always has to bow down to the dictates of the collaborating style? In this case, Bharatanatyam and Kathak."

There is no question of any one art form bowing under the other. Bharatanatyam has risen to be the most popular dance form today because the dancers and choreographers were and also are willing to experiment the dance with different mediums be it Kathak bols, bhajans, abhangs or music from other parts of the world. And what is wrong with that? After all, isn't art beyond geographical boundaries, language and individuals?

- Dayalakshmi (Jan 8, 2007)
I just finished reading your article introducing Friendly Fire. I will be looking forward to your column every month. I have always enjoyed and appreciated your upfront articles which are so straight forward and have nothing but truth stripped naked.

- Puja Allepalli (Nov 9, 2006)
Thank you for your insightful reflections on the Chicago conference. While I wasn't present at the conference, I do find it useful to keep my finger on the pulse of activity in the field of dance. Your report was extremely valuable and questions/issues raised -pertinent. I am always curious to learn about the actual "exchange" between artists and between artists and audience. Can conferences encourage a learning community? It would be useful to learn about the "day to day" challenges of teaching, learning, producing/touring/presenting-

Emerging artists, master teachers and dance professionals must be prepared to consider current circumstances such as: preserving cultural heritage as well as productive ways to make these arts relevant to our times; popular entertainment industries; the decline of live performances; the marketplace role of DVD/VCD recordings and the internet; and an erosion of financial support for dance performance and education; How does an NRI dancer access a mixed audience?

These conditions call for a conference that can intelligently decipher this historical moment and provide practical as well as conceptual tools that can prepare dance professionals for the cultural and economic circumstances they face. However, I am thrilled that you attended the conference and kudos to Hema R. who is able to gather dance community together each year.

- Anu Kishore Ganpati (Nov 18, 2006)
This is particularly to felicitate you on your perceptive article on the Chicago Festival. Reading it, I almost felt I was there and was hobnobbing with all the people! I do look forward to your trenchant pieces in the coming months!

- Utpal K Banerjee (Nov 19, 2006)
Noted your contempt for "India Eyes" as against the North American eyes of Rajika Puri and Harikrishnan. Yes, the debate of Rukmini Devi vs Devadasi is disgusting. Every dance is valid and must be seen in context. This had been my constant line. While Harikrishanan is trying to create the devadasi context in North America, Rajika Puri assures the audience while showing the visuals of the bull fight in her Flamenco natyam "Don't worry, there is no violence here nobody gets killed". No human being got killed but the visuals showed the animal being harassed and wounded in gory detail. Is dance concerned only with the human?

- V R Devika (Nov 21, 2006)
"The intellectual center of Indian dance has moved out of India....The schism between dance and academics is wider than ever. The younger generation of Indian dance scholars Ö"

Oh, I totally disagree! In my experience, the real substance is still back in Tamilnadu; this thin layer of NRI or diaspora dancers and their clouds of hype cannot equal seeing real substance and real talent in dance, which is so abundant back in Madras. Thatís why people come in droves: it's not just woolly-headed nostalgia.

Academics and "Indian dance scholars": there is something very fake about this entire profession. I am not talking about the half-baked silly writers and poseurs. I mean, even serious "good" writers: I was recently reading Lakshmi Subramaniam's book published by OUP and previously Leslie Orr's book about devadasis in medieval Tamilnadu. Yes, it's good "scholarship" - but so what? I still resent it. It's still a parasitical and dishonorable profession (like moneylender or PR) that produces nothing and comes in between the teacher-dancer-audience relation which simply doesn't need it. To produce great dance all you need are good teachers, good pieces and talented dancers - that's it. Academics are superfluous.

Anita Ratnam writes:
"Many of us missed hearing the words of seminal culturalist Kapila Vatsyayan. She remains, perhaps, one of the very few cultural workers whose mind assimilates the many kinds of Indian-ness. All the missing strands of the conference - the worlds of philosophy, architecture, ethics, musicology, painting and history would have coalesced in her speech. "

My my my - what respectful genuflecting-on-one-knee slavishly reverential words from someone who always rails against "purists" and "old gurus" and "old faces." So this is the true face of the "rebel."

I have listened to Vatsayayan's vacuous shallow clichés on TV and do not feel that it has anything of insight or merit to offer. Of course, it is rooted in Brahminism - perhaps that's why the likes of Ms. Ratnam find it so soothing and flattering to the ear.

- Arul Francis (Nov 23, 2006)
I don't understand what is so wrong about Brahminism? Brahmins gave the world the zero, decimal system, plastic surgery, yoga, ayurveda, and many other goodies. If there was (is) discrimination, it was (is) unfortunate but which culture on this planet is immune to discrimination? As I said in an earlier post without the Brahmins the art will not be in existence today. Enough of this Brahmin bashing already! So, let's leave the caste question out of this discussion.

- Sheetal (Nov 24, 2006)
For goodness sake - where does caste figure in all this? In any case, I'd rather listen to the "vacuous shallow cliches" of a Kapila Vatsyayan than anything that a person filled with hate and prejudice has to say!!! For the sake of your dance (I am of course assuming that you are a dancer), I hope that the chip on your shoulder isnít throwing you off balance. I find that people who have a chip on their shoulder are invariably mediocre!

- Dancer (Nov 24, 2006)