Caught in the glitz

Caught in the glitz

Commercial Side

The City has become a hotspot for Indian classical dancers. More parents are sending their children to pursue classical dances like bharatanatyam, odissi and kathak.

An important step to becoming an established dancer is having a successful arangetram or ‘graduation ceremony’. 

But dancing has ceased to be just an art form. For some, it is a well-designed business module as well.

The very first step that a dancer takes in public, the arangetram,
has become nothing more than an extravagant way to show off. “Arangetram is a waste of money.

They are a money-making machine for dance teachers,” says dancer Masoom Parmar.
Reshmi Nair, who is a trained bharatanatyam and kathak dancer, points out that it is the parents who force the children to do the arangetram and not the teachers. “It’s more about the glitz and glamour than the talent,”
she adds.

The simple and elegant temple tradition has been blow out of proportion. Parents spend lakhs of rupees to watch their kids ‘graduate’ in style.

Masoom says that the arangetram was originally meant to showcase the skill of the dancer and nothing more. “It is tailor-made to suit a certain audience and the person who is going to perform the piece.

And it’s convenient when the guru has contacts. But anyone who falls outside that construct is left behind,” says Manjari Chandrashekar, who preferred doing her arangetram at a temple.

Youngsters are thrown into this game without knowing the footfalls. Vandana Supriya, an experienced odissi dancer, says that people shouldn’t do their arangetram till a certain age when they can understand what dance is about.

“The dancer might do fantastic practically but may not understand the theory and emotions behind the moves. Like a child won’t be able to understand how it feels to
be a mother.” 

In the words of Manjari, one has to pay to use moves these days. That’s why many teachers are discouraging their students from doing an arangetram.

Satyanarayana Raju, a seasoned bharatanatyam dancer and teacher, says that he only teaches students if they agree to not do arangetrams, exams and competitions. “A dancer should have passion, love and interest and not everyone can become performers. I don’t want to give them false hope.”

   Jayanthi M Eshwarputhi, who teaches bharatanatyam at the Indian Institute of
Science, says that she encourages her students to do the arangetram but only in temples. “It is a beautiful tradition; an offering to god. It was my dream to do mine in a temple and I did it just for the namesake. It was just another performance,” she says.  

Not all dancers believe that it is a waste of resources. “Arangetram is something that people in the dance community judge you on.

If I were to apply for a competition or a dance festival, I’m asked if I’ve completed my arangetram and if yes, I have to send them a clip,” says Gowri Shankar, a bharata­natyam dancer who completed her ‘graduation’ in 2010. She adds that she hired a hall because she wanted to share her first experience of a solo performance with her friends and family.

An arangetram costs anywhere between three to five lakhs these days. Parents have to shell out for the stage, multiple costumes, jewellery, live music, food (varies from packets of sweets to a full-course dinner), make-up, lighting, stage design, advertising and more.

Usha Madhavan says that her daughter’s arangetram arrangement, which still isn’t complete, is costing her around four lakh. Gowri says that her arangetram had cost her three lakh without food.

It’s ironic because for a lot of these dancers, the graduation also signals the end of their dancing career. “People do it to please their friends and family but they don’t even know whether they will continue as dancers. It is the duty of the teacher to stop them,” says Satyanarayana.