Amidst a flood of social media memes that re-emphasise the importance of art and artistes in the society and the need to look inwards in a lockdown situation, the passiveness of recorded performances has made art connoisseurs realise the matchlessness of a live experience all over again. While the organic quality of a live event can no longer be replicated in this hour of uncertainty, going live on Instagram has emerged as a reasonable alternative in re-establishing the connection between artistes and audiences.
In particular reference to music and dance, a series of eclectic events hosted by Aalaap, a Chennai-based organisation (specialising in artiste management, event curation and consulting) on their Instagram handle (@aalaap_concepts), has stood out for its imaginative themes. From seeing abhinaya through the lens of a male dancer to understanding the essence of Azhwar’s Divya Prabandham to a live event on Lata Mangeshkar’s songs and retelling many women-centric stories through dance, their ideas have caught the fascination of an informed rasika and a layperson alike.
A former journalist and the founder of Aalaap, Akhila Krishnamurthy had a lot to do with its curation. She went to the extent of organising an Instagram tutorial for her newsletter subscribers to familiarise them with Instagram Live. She has been a key figure in making art more relevant for the current generation in refreshing ways, without losing sight of its essence. “My idea through this series was to help the artistes look inward, realise their strengths, build their brand and create something more meaningful and tangible that’ll help them even after lockdown,” she shares.
Another key aspect to take note of, in the reach of the series, has been Aalaap’s follower group comprising a young and contemporary audience, including dancers, students, researchers as well as rasikas between 18 and those in their 40s. The meticulous coordination with artistes of good repute like Vaibhav Arekar, Praveen Kumar, Pavitra Krishna Bhat, Rukmini Vijayakumar and Sridhar Vasudevan seems like a daunting prospect, but the access of the organisation and its goodwill with the artiste fraternity ensured that the responses were instantaneous. The feedback during the performances has been a key indicator of the traction that the series has had.
Takeaway for the artistes too
The joy hasn’t been for the spectator alone — the artiste’s takeaways from the series have also been huge. The abhinaya event made an otherwise non-tech savvy dancer Praveen Kumar get to understand the technicalities of a virtual performance. Right from the camera angle to the lighting, it compelled the Bengaluru-based dancer to undergo a technological upgrade, which may not have been possible otherwise.
“My social media activity was largely restricted to sharing an update about my next performance and I would vanish after that. When I dance on the stage, I generally depute off-stage activities, including camera angles, lighting, etc., to other people and focus only on my performance. Now, I don’t have a choice but to do it. It’s a new experience for me. Art can fill one with happiness and hope and I’m happy to be a small part of this effort,” Praveen adds. He lent more contemporariness to his performance by choosing a Purandaradasa devaranama that subtly puts forward the idea of social distancing — where Krishna is advised to stay home, eat butter and sweets and is instructed not to step into the neighbourhood.
Mumbai-based dancer Pavitra Krishna Bhat saw the series as an opportunity to connect with his counterparts and notice what they were up to. He also received a bunch of flattering reviews from a new bunch of followers. “Technically, for someone like me who is been used to taking online dance classes for over a decade, this was a natural extension. Even otherwise, no day of mine is complete without practice at home. This was also one such, but with a wider reception. Though I may prefer stage performances to virtual ones, this is a timely alternative and could last a lot longer than what we may have envisaged. There couldn’t have been a better age for me to absorb a better balance of classicality and modernity,” he opines.
The purpose of the series has been clear. “I have looked at curating something that will appeal to a large group of people who’ve not been initiated into art and get them to appreciate it. The idea is to not intimidate any kind of audience. We do not worry about pleasing a certain audience, which may have been the case with an auditorium performance,” reiterates Akhila, the brain behind the series. Monetising the events, giving a social angle to them and finding sponsors aren’t on her priority list as of now, given the gravity of the situation.