Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Locavore Dance Movement

I love India. I really, really do.

But after watching now for 20+ years dancers constantly heading back there for six months at a time to train, establish their career, get their photographs taken, costumes designed, supplies purchased, and earn their stripes as a performer, I have to say: Enough!

Perhaps this was necessary in the beginning, but now, why?

There are wonderful teachers here, knowledgable and hardworking artists, and resources galore. How do we ever expect to become a global art form if we work to keep it as localized and regionalized as possible?

Yes, we don't have the perfect kanjeevaram silk that Chennai makes best or perhaps the tailors for Indian costuming...but why can't we expand what that costume can be by using the materials available to us in our own neighborhood? It is not blasphemous to support your local businesses, and you'll certainly be expanding the number of people who come to learn about the work you do if artists become less India dependent.

That's what seems to be the problem. Do you need tomatoes from Italy to make a delicious pasta sauce? It's actually not going to be that great unless you're IN Italy. If instead, you opt for your farmer's market tomatoes, yes the taste of the sauce will be different, but frankly, the quality will be higher! Indian classical dancers should really start to adopt the locavore food movement except in terms of using the resources around us. Perhaps our flavor will become more "Americanized" but if you accept that with tradition and art comes change and you are NOT accepting diminishing quality, it becomes less problematic than one might think.

P.S. - I linked in Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma because that's where a lot of my food analogies spark from. Maybe you will be similarly inspired.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nrtta Hastas

Did you know there are nrtta hastas listed in the Natyashastra specifically used for nrtta? I had no idea - I thought there were just the 28 asamyuta hastas (one hand gestures). I am going to look up these in my copy of the Natyashastra and make them available to you here.

Interesting, isn't it, how much we take from the Natyashastra and at the same time how much we ignore?

Definitely proof of why you can move past texts to choreograph within classical dances.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Surprising Overlap of Teaching Methods in Chinese and Indian aesthetics

I have been learning about chi, hana, rasa, and praxis (the Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Greek theories of aesthetics, respectively) in a class taught by Richard Schechner, and am continuously surprised by the level of overlap within these theories in practice.

Yes, yes, many scholars are probably smacking their foreheads right now, "Do we have another one who thinks all these distinctly different theories are the same and believes in universality?"

The answer is no.

So before you start smashing your forehead into the screen, while I acknowledge major and distinct differences in each of these theories, I tend to concentrate on where they overlap. Ignoring the similarities is just as bad of a trait as ignoring their differences.

The training methods of the Beijing Opera and Indian classical dancers seem much the same. Imitate (including the dance - acting) and eventually you will understand and "get it". They seem to have the same pride for the guru-shisya tradition as well. There is an inordinate amount of attention paid to the eye movement training. And, oddly enough, they also isolate the different parts of the body to create "adavus" that seem to be labeled "jingju" in Beijing Opera. None are really written down but passed along orally.

Perhaps this seems superficial, but I do think there is more to this than meets the eye.