Best foot forward

Best foot forward

Dancing kings

Best foot forward

Dancers are the athletes of God’, said Albert Einstein. The great man had a knack for getting his facts right and here too, he hit the nail on the head.

Graceful, dexterous, passionate and powerful — these are just some of the words one can use to describe this talented breed. But despite being held in high esteem by our culture, dance is still seen as a feminine art form and something that is not suitable for men as such.

“I got into dance in my second PUC when my neighbours and I planned an enviromental awareness show,” says Manognya Balaraju, artistic director, Aayana Dance Company. “The production was horrible but it was my first tryst with dance. After that, I got into Christ College which has around 60 to 65 dance teams. I also decided to form a group with my friends just for fun. I had no formal training in dance but as I performed, I started getting more and more interested. I also read extensively about dance and I think I was the only one in the entire college who got those books issued. After college, I took a year off and pursued my interest in dance and finally took it up as a profession. And that is when my parents completely flipped out,” he says laughing.

It is a situation which is familiar to all male dancers. As long as they see it as a hobby, something to be pursued in school or college, dance is okay. People are even impressed. But the minute it changes from pastime to profession, disapproval and ridicule follow.

Jayachandran Palazhy, founder and artistic director of Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, recollects, “When I was a student, dance was not considered as a proper profession for men. If one was good in studies, it became even more problematic to take this up as a career. The major difficulty was explaining your decision to parents and relatives who are not necessarily sensitised to art. And this happens in India where we have art forms like kathakali, therukoothu, yakshagana and many more which have mostly male dancers.”

Arun Kumar says he was lucky in that regard because his parents placed only one condition to let him take up dance — that he finish his graduation. The artistic director of ‘Studio 5678’ says, “I started with break dancing when I was around 13 years old. That extended to ballroom, salsa, jive and more. Nowadays, there is a lot more scope for dancers because of reality shows, live events and more. Dance studios are mushrooming everywhere. One of the fallouts of this is that while earlier we would struggle to
follow our passion, today’s generation has it much easier.”

And even dance is not free from bias. There are hierarchies and subsections within the ambit of this art and how you are seen depends on which level of the pecking order you have identified with. So if you are into classical or contemporary dance, chances are that you will have a slightly easier time than your contemporaries in ballet or Bollywood dance.

“I was always interested in dance but there was such a stigma associated with a boy learning dance, especially ballet, in those times,” says Rahul Muthyal Pradeep from The Lewis Foundation of Classical Ballet.

“I finally decided to give ballet a try when I was getting done with college and as expected, I fell in love with it. But my parents, like most Indian parents would, reacted horribly. Even though the situation is somewhat better nowadays, there is no drastic change. For example, in our school, there are 1,000 students on the rolls out of which only 10 to 20 are boys.”

But still, things do seem to be leaning towards the brighter side. “Though parents are still hesitant about letting their sons take up this career, it is a good thing that boys themselves are not looking down on dance like in earlier times,” says Jayachandran. “Choreography for events and screen shows, training, teaching — there are many opportunities in this field nowadays and the acceptance is increasing slowly but steadily,” he adds.

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