Festivals

Malleswaram Mirror Special: Dance goes digital

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By Tanushree Sen

Dance schools in Malleswaram were quick to adapt to online teaching during the pandemic

In the pre-pandemic days, you could hear the sound of jingles and the rhythmic tapping of feet in every street in Malleswaram, where dance schools are located. However, the pandemic has silenced that. But dance is being taught and it’s all virtual.

Madhu Nataraj, founder-director of the STEM Dance Company and Natya Institute, and daughter of the legendary Kathak guru Dr Maya Rao, says, “We were one of the first to embrace the virtual platform. We started online classes in April, with 10 to 12 students per class.” Besides this Natraj has organised a series of solo concerts to educate her audience about the creative process, spearheaded an online venture called Dance Shaal(W)e (shaale is school in Kannada) for rural kids and had a few dance conferences online.

Kiran Subramanyam, of the Bharatnatyam duo Sandhya-Kiran, founders of the Rasika Academy of Performing Arts, says it’s not impossible but because it’s a performing art, it calls for a lot of structuring. “While adults are easy to handle, teaching children is challenging. Firstly, you have to break down each step minutely for them to understand. Secondly, you have to keep them occupied because they are at home and get distracted easily.” But the silver lining is that they have been able to reach out to people in US, UK, Australia, Singapore, Europe, along with India, for their workshops and conferences, says Sandhya.

Minal Prabhu, founder of Mudrika Foundation for Indian Performing Arts, says this is not the ideal way of teaching dance but she has embraced technology.

Manu Srinavasan of Nupura School of Bharatanatyam, says digital classes are giving them the time to discuss theories, concepts, composers. “I also ask the kids to do some research to keep them engaged,” says Srinivasan. Nupura also organised the Nitya Nritya dance festival online and could get dancers from foreign locales join in. “We saved a lot of time and money on transport and booking auditoriums. Digital festivals have an advantage – audience can view it at leisure and we can see how many and who is viewing us. Because of the digital medium, there are also a lot more conversations happening,” says Srinivasan.

Minal Prabhu, founder of Mudrika Foundation for Indian Performing Arts, says this is not the ideal way of teaching dance but she has embraced technology and evolved. “I give the students small learning goals. They practice a piece, come online and then I correct the student’s abhinaya (the art of expression) and nattuvangam (symbols) individually. Finally, the piece will be shot and uploaded on social media,” adds Prabhu.

It’s a new stage and dancers and teachers are dancing to a new beat.

Are you a resident of Malleswaram and surrounding areas? We’d like to hear from you: [email protected]

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