Author: Padmashri Mahamahopadhyaya Dr Ra. Sathyanarayana
I wish there were a law to prohibit variety entertainments from exploiting the innocent enthusiasm of our poor dear children. I have been compelled to be present at many of these shows and I have yet to find one which did not feature a ‘Radha – Krishna’ or a ‘Shiva – Parvati’ or even a ‘Pururava – Urvashi’ dance by a pair of children. Except arousing and affection for the ‘agility’ of the victimized children from the general audience, the only achievements of such a performance consist in parental pride and pleasure at the ‘courage’ and ‘talent’ of their children and the gratification of the dance teacher for having shown a return for tuition fees received. The children are, of course, happy because of the colourful costume and makeup and for being fussed about.
I do not know how it looks to the enthusiast parent or to the unthinking teacher, but to me the ‘Radha – Krishna’ dance looks like a pityless drill. It is also an insult to the aesthetic capacity of the audience. Do they expect us to participate in enraptured in the sublime erotic love of the 10 year old Krishna for the 8 year old Radha? Do they expect our hearts to throb up with sympathy at the heart rending sorrow of separation of the Infant Radha who can hardly keep her darling little eyes open at that hour of the night? Do they attribute to us such credulity that they want us to believe that it was the same breath of the flute which is more often than not, an unholy metamorphosis of a film tune, which arrested the flow of the Yamuna, are made the cows forget the cud, and thrilled three worlds into a musical emancipation? And the poor kid Krishna is strained to the utmost in maintaining balance with one and a half feet!
It is equally an insult to our Gods and Goddesses that Shiva and Parvati should be enacted by young children who are capable of as much artistic expression as a puppet. Is it the same Lord at the shaking of Whose damaru Sound and hence the World was born? At the stamp of Whose foot the Earth trembled, the ocean overflowed? At the Whose glances the sun and the stars were born? This teen age child whose weighty make up barely conceals his ribs? Is it the same Mother of the Universe? Who was responsible for making Rudra a Shiva for Kumarasambhava? Is it the same ultimate in Divinity and Beauty which Kalidasa painted? This young girl who has difficulty in matching her foot with the drum?
No, I think not.
It is bad for the child and bad for the art. It is bad for our conception of Godhead.
If the teacher or the parent insists on bringing the child to the stage so early, let them select themes which are at least reasonable. Let them train these children in themes which they may understand and enjoy, like love for a brother such as Rama- Lakshmana, Krishna- Balarama etc., love of father or mother for a child and vice – versa_ such as Krishna – Yashoda, Lava – Kusha and Seetha, or heroic themes such as Abhimanyu, Boy Rama and Boy Lakshmana versus The Demons, divine adventures of Child Krishna, are playful themes such as Krishna and the cowherd boys. Stories from the Panchatantra, Aesop’s fables and and Grimm’s Fairy Tales are equally good themes for children to dance. They are abusing the themes, the art and the children’s minds with erotic and terrible (raudra)themes.
We have erotic infants because we have erratic parents and the terrible (raudra) child dances because we have some terrible teachers.
SUGGESTION IN EXPRESSION
In a seminar on semantics, the Champions of Practice, passed a unanimous resolution that meaning should be demonstrated in terms of real objects rather than talked about. Thus, to demonstrate the idea of eating, the meaning was to be conveyed by rapid inthrusts of curved fingers into the (open) mouth, or better, actually by the eating; to express an elephant ride, write a picture showing somebody riding an elephant, or better, ride an elephant.
Yes, but how to convey the meaning of, say, ‘suggestion in expression’?
There is a type of dancer who calls a spade a spade. He or she leaves nothing to chance. The spectators may not know a spade, you see. So the dancer proceeds to bring a spade and show it to us, poor ignoramuses.
Hence your Gopi or Radha carries a real pot in her head ; your Krishna holds a real flute ; he blows a real conch (how well he does it is nobody’s business!) ; the peacock dancer struts on his hands and feet like a real peacock, having stuck real feathers on his person ; the snake dancer comes crawling in his belly like a real snake.
You see, nobody is cheating you!
But he is cheating art.
Dance, like all art, flourishes by suggestion and suggestiveness, expressiveness, rather than expression. You go out half way to meet the artist and supplement his suggestion with your imagination ;. it makes art meaningful. The dancer is not, and should not be, a lawyer who is trying to block up every loophole with whereases and heretofores.
What distinguishes art from non – art?
Art uses the same colours, sounds, rhythms, words and motifs as life. But these acquire a new depth and a new dimension in meaning in art. Its symbols have a name and a connotation but only a fluid signification. Suggestiveness and expressiveness, rather than explicit expression, are essential to an artistic idea.
A good artist does not hide his art behind a spectacular stagecraft or a distracting costume or impenetrable paint.No, he makes you forget these. He makes you forget yourself and himself. He allows his art to shine forth through him. He makes you participate in his joy and adventure by allowing to you to contribute and to share of sahrdaya and imagination.
(From the book STUDIES IN INDIAN DANCE by Mahamahopadyaya Dr. R. Sathyanarayana, published in 1970. Pp116, 117)