Crush the pressure and distraction
‘Young artists must strive to eliminate mediocrity in dance,’ says Malavika Sarukkai
Renowned Bharatanatyam exponent Malavika Sarukkai has said that classical dance in the modern era is becoming infected with mediocrity due to the pressures and distractions faced by the new generation, short cuts in teaching and the descent of dance into entertainment.
In a free flowing conversation with author Sudha Gopalakrishnan at the Art Matters dialogue series organised by the Raza Foundation here on Thursday evening, Sarukkai spoke at length about her own journey as an artist, her personal discoveries, practice of art and her vision for the future.
She decried the creeping mediocrity in all forms of dance, because of the culture of instant gratification and dancers who are not putting in long-term effort to find themselves as artists.
“Dancers, like musicians, have to align to a pitch; they cannot rely solely on external cues on stage. We have to locate the Tambura, this pitch, within us. It needs a lot of focus and hard work. It bothers me that in dance these days, people have lost that, they have given up finding this sruthi, which is why a lot of performances are so mediocre,” she said.
Sarukkai, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2003, said she longs ‘to see younger dancers who are extraordinary’ and performances where the audience come out ‘moved, and a bit light-headed.’
“My observation is that we see a lot of dance but not ‘dance,’ there is no immersion. I'm not interested in making classical dance entertainment, which is largely what it has been reduced to today. You have to divert the attention of the audience to the wisdom and truth around us,” she maintained.
On the modern teaching methodology for dance, she quipped there were too many quick-fixes and not enough inspiration.
Gopalakrishnan, who herself is an artist, deftly guided the conversation prompting Sarukkai to provide insights into her own evolution as a dancer and her personal challenges.
Sarukkai said she moved out of the conventional Nayak-Nayika shringara narratives where the hero meets the heroine, they part, she longs for him and then he comes back and so forth, to explore deeper emotions such as Bhakti, divinity, freedom and spirituality.
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