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The Natya Kala Conference 2019: Day 4 - Dec 29, 2019
- Jeetendra Krishna
Photos: Vinay Tiwari

Dec 31, 2019 

The longest session of the conference was with a duration of two hours and forty five minutes. The session had the title: 'Transparent Critiquing: A Dynamic Session' conceptualized and moderated by Rama Vaidyanathan as a sincere exercise to engage and understand the dynamics between the dance critic, the dancer, and the rasikas.

Navia Natarajan

Praveen Kumar

Janaki Rangarajan

Lavanya Ananth

In the preparation for this session, Rama approached four prominent and passionate dancers: Navia Natarajan, Praveen Kumar, Janaki Rangarajan and Lavanya Ananth. The topic given to the dancers was 'Ask a Question' and present this topic through a sixteen minute solo piece using the medium Bharatanatyam. The dancers were left free to imagine the choreography for the given topic. Rama also invited four established dance critics to write a critical analysis immediately after the performances, within a short time span of forty-five minutes! Which critic would write for which dancer was decided by the dancers picking out of a bowl a chit with the name of the critic written on it. After this the four dancers presented their solo piece one after another. Immediately at the end of the dances the critics were ushered out of the auditorium to write the reviews. While we waited for the critics to return with their respective analysis of the performances the audience was given the chance to interact with the four dancers, and ask them questions about the dances presented. Hereafter, the critics were ushered back into the auditorium, and were asked to read out the review for the dancer they were selected to write for. After this the session continued with a Q and A between audience and the dance critics. I shall not write of what the dancers presented and how the art critics analysed their dances.

What makes someone a good reviewer of a Bharatanatyam performance? Is it possible for someone who has not learned Bharatanatyam to critically evaluate the performance of it? If you have not been through the years of rigorous training of the adavus, and the dance is not in your blood can you review the dance? Is book knowledge enough? Is it possible to review objectively when there is close proximity between art critic and dancer?

Having said all of the above, this particular session about transparency in art critiquing was interesting since it does not happen often that the dynamics between dancer and art critic is discussed at length. Panel discussions of dance conferences held in Chennai are more than often an exercise in futility - dancers/teachers do not focus on the questions asked by moderates but divert and/or digress. The convener of the conference, Rama Vaidyanathan has opened the doors for hopefully further discussions about the reviewing of Bharatanatyam performances. She should be commended for thoughtfully conceptualising this rather sensitive subject, which could have easily backfired.

Srishti - Nina Rajarani Dance Creations

The fourth day ended with 'Play Ball' by Srishti - Nina Rajarani Dance Creations. The performance was a triple bill of Bharatanatyam pieces, inspired by the 'British Lads' culture. The pieces were presented with live music and cast of nine dancers.

Jeetendra Krishna, Sathir Dance Art Trust, Amsterdam-Chennai.

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