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"Criticism should be taken in right spirit"

Here is a discussion with Sweekruth, a humble Kathak dancer from Bangalore, professionally training hard and paving his way towards a successful career, and Hithaishy Dhanan, a Kuchipudi dancer, also from Bangalore, an old player in the field, spiritedly balancing a career in architecture and dance. This is what they had to say -

Being a Kathak/Kuchipudi dancer based out of Bangalore, a city brimming with Bharatanatyam, do you feel starved for opportunities?
Sweekruth:Yes, I do feel this way at times; however I don’t blame it on any particular city. People in the south are aware of it, and since Kathak originated in the North, it is understandably more popular there, with lots of teachers, students, and institutions that promote it in a big way. However compared to other cities in the south, Bengaluru is more exposed to Kathak, and has good dancers and teachers. I suppose we need to take the initiative and create opportunities for ourselves. I do see the trend beginning to change.

Hithaishy:Yes , I do feel it. I would like to quote an incident, I recently applied for a performance at an organization in Bangalore, and since my bio-data says I am both a Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi artist, the organizers said I would get an opportunity to perform if I performed only Bharatnatyam, as there would be no audience for Kuchipudi. So, surely yes, I do feel starved of opportunities.
One can certainly make money but needs to strike a balance between art and the commercialization of art
As young dancers, what are your views on dance criticism?
Sweekruth: It needs to be understood who is genuine and who is not to feel pleased when someone praises your dance. But it is important to not feel miserable when it is criticized. It should be taken in the right spirit, and one should keep working hard. It is possible to judge ones own performance when watching documented videos, and to tell whether the criticism is fake or honest. There are bad critiques too. It is up to the artist to judge his or her caliber in the field, and to be smart.

Hithaishy: I think any critique, good or bad , should be taken in the right spirit. I would say criticism is worth if it comes from a learned person, someone well versed in the field of dance.

What is your take on government support in the art field?
Sweekruth: I am happy with government institutions like ICCR (especially the Bengaluru branch), which are doing a good job. But there are many other government owned cultural organizations which, although have received funds to promote dance, do not use it in an appropriate way. Half the time, dancers themselves organize promotional festivals at the their own expense. The less said on this subject the better.

Hithaishy: I feel it is good when the government does get involved. Artists get better exposure and recognition. Also many NGOs, with the help of government support and funding, are able to conduct many cultural events and give opportunities to upcoming and renowned artists.

Do you feel classical dance in its current form is reaching out to the audience?
Sweekruth: This is a difficult question to answer, as I feel that things are not the same today as they were twenty years ago. If you compare the society then to what it is now, one observes a tremendous change and growth in technology, lifestyle, family ties and culture. Yet apart from a few new themes, dancers are still performing stories based on mythology. We need to be bold and experiment, to stretch a bit and make it simpler, more interesting, and use language which the audience can understand. The same themes can still be performed, but one should simplify it without compromising on the quality or aesthetics. Since dance is a visual medium and has to compete with other modern invasions, one has to find ways of making it attractive. And one can certainly do so through incorporating the latest technology; No harm done, I must say.

Hithaishy: Yes it does. Having said that, not all would enjoy all the items that I am performing, there are some which are mass appealing and some only to few people who know or have some experience in the field of dance. However, in general it is being liked by all, and is also being promoted healthily.
I think any critique, good or bad, should be taken in the right spirit. I would say criticism is worth if it comes from a learned person
Share any embarrassing moment of old times in your dancing career which you laugh over now.
Sweekruth: (Laughs) One of my stage performances was in front of the great stalwarts.I was so nervous that I forgot the basic footwork! I was very embarrassed, but things have come a long way since then. I do still laugh whenever I recollect it.

Hithaishy : Yes, I would like to quote one! When I did the ballet Kolluru Kodagus, I was the Kodagusu. I was 10 years old at the time. There is a scene where I am praying to Lord Shiva to literally come and drink the milk that I offer Him. I was literally waiting for quite some time on stage as the Shiva and Parvathi took a delayed entry, and not only that, they happened to enter from another direction.There were some last minute changes of which I was unaware of. It was really embarrassing to stand and wait. My reaction on stage even now makes me laugh.

How tough is it to make ends meet in a dancing profession, specially being a male artiste?
Sweekruth:(Laughs) I don’t think its about being male or female. One can certainly make money but needs to strike a balance between art and the commercialization of art. It is up to the artist to decide how one goes about it. One needs to treat him/herself and the art as a product - to package it well, advertise and market in such a way as to be lucrative. To be honest, let us not compare art to professions such as medicine or engineering, as any profession requires dedication, sincerity, determination and hard work. There are lots of avenues, performances, teaching scenarios, corporate shows, wedding sangeet functions, and college cultural events, but it is a long process. As one grows, in terms of recognition for the work one does, it is possible to request higher remuneration.

How have you balanced career and academics? Was it a struggle and juggle?
Hithaishy: Yes, it has been both! I started dancing at an early age of 4. So at the time it was all fun. Managing studies and dance at the time was fine. Later when I did go to college, being a science student, I literally had to fight my way to perform, as science students were supposed to stick to their books. Thankfully my principal at the time was very supportive!
There were times when we would spend days in the auditorium, not even look at the classroom, just study only before exams. When I joined a professional course, that too architecture, it was really a struggle as we were so held up with submissions. I used to wait for holidays to get back to dance. When I was working as an architect late hours, with no energy to practice, rather no time to attend regular classes, it was very depressing. I still managed for sometime. As of now , I am sticking to one, as my other profession demands a lot of time which I will not be able to devote. Being an architect, you have got to be there from start to finish or it is bound to go wrong somewhere. I guess that’s in any profession. But I think in mine it is a lot more. Considering a dancer’s erratic schedule, I was not doing justice to either.So at the moment I am sticking to dancing.


Martin said...

hey you guys great going... very proud of the fact that there are artists like you pursuing and promoting the art that you practice... all the best with all your future endeavors :)

Jayashree Mohan said...

Hi you are doing good keep up the spirit hope you go a long way

Sanmanju said...

After going through the above interview , i am just amazed to find that how today's youngsters are keen in their career and personal interests... The way they are dedicated to their own field is just inspiring for an artist like me..It shows their strong determination to reach the peak of the art... all the best to both of them..

Sweekruthbp said...

Thanks to all who have read the article and appreciated it, and thanks to the entire Team of Kalaparva for doing such wonderful job in the field of art.

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