Dreaming with their feet

Cultural potpourri

Dreaming with their feet

Among the many aspects of this country that have been showcased to an eager global audience, there is a mandatory section about  folk dances. But there lies the catch — global audience, not Indian. To say that we are not enamoured with our culture would be an understatement.

At the recently concluded ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav 2017’, more than 900 artistes from all over the country garnered applause from the audience. But these are just fleeting moments of joy in a life filled with poverty and hardship.

“We face many problems in this field,” says Sobita Devi, part of the team from Manipur that does the Kabui Jagoi dance. “I am married and have children so personally, striking a balance is very tough. Thankfully, my husband is supportive and understands my love for my culture, a main reason why I am still continuing performing,” she says.

“Poverty is our main problem,” says Ganga, a native of Chitradurga who has been performing the Lambani dance for 20 years.. “We have to spend out of our pocket for the costumes and jewellery for the dance. I buy the jewellery because I have no other option but I make my dress myself, to save whatever little I can that way. The heavy embroidery and intricate details involve hours of labour but no one ever appreciates us for that.”

A fierce pride in their traditions is what motivates many  to keep alive dying practices. “I took to dancing because I wanted to showcase my culture to the world,” says Laishram Sanjit Singh, an exponent of the Manipuri Kabui Jagoi dance.

“We are very talented but even our fellow countrymen don’t know anything about us. I want to take my art to the world. More than that, I want people to realise and accept that we are a part of this country too,” he says earnestly.

Sunil Siddi, from Karwar district, has formed a dance troupe which comprises of farmers and is vocal about his community’s love for dance.

“It runs in our blood. They say that if you don’t know how to dance, you are not a Siddi. It is an integral part of all occasions. And during these days, we can dance from 9 in the night to 6 in the morning without feeling tired,” he shares.

“We are proud of this heritage. So we want to display it wherever possible. When we have a programme, the performers work in the fields
during the morning and then  practice in the evening.”

“There is not much movement of folk artistes between states,” says Venkatesh Naik, coordinator of the Lambani dance troupe. “There should be a cultural exchange so that the artistes get more chances to perform. And the payment process should also be regularised. As of now, agriculture is what keeps these dancers alive. They work as coolies and farmhands in the fields and then come here and dance with a smile on their faces.”

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