A Panel Discussion on the Dilution of Classical Arts


Left to Right: Dr Prasenjit Duara, Dr Sunil Kothari, Mr V.Sriram, Ms Minal Prabhu, Mr Zaini Tahir , Mr JP Nathan

“Dilution of the classical arts?”,with the question mark, was the topic of the Panel Discussion with prominent personalities as panelists.

Padmasree Dr Sunil Kothari, international dance historian and critic from India, stated that dances, classical or ballet, are all forms of communication and nobody calls classical dances any more as ethnic. Dancers and dance forms are continuously adopting and adapting to change.

Mr.V. Sriram prominent musicologist and cultural historian from Chennai,India stated when classical arts gets diluted, it ceases to be classical arts. The foundation is remaining the same while the interpretation is changing. Classical music is undergoing change regularly. For example, he cited that previously the alapanasand concerts of 3 hours were reduced to fit into gramophones.Then with introduction of tapes and CDs there is this constant change.But remarked that if there is preservation then it is worrying too as that sounds the alarm bell.Technology is now making it adopt and adapt to the times.

MsMinal Prabhu of Mudrika Foundation, Bharathanatyam guru from Bangalore expressed that in classicism there is no need to break rules. You can work within the grammar, with rhythmic sense, keeping in mind the absolute basics. It is essential for the choreographer to know the ground rules and innovate and work within it, bending it not breaking it.

Mr.ZainiTahir artistic and resident choreographer of NUS dance ensemble added in that he took to dancing at the age of 19 and is more into contemporary and his foray into classical is new to him. In Singapore something is always happening and happening fast. His journey to Indonesia and his training there has made him understand that he is still a novice and now he owes it to himself to find more meaning for himself and is in a search for that.

Mr J P Nathan,director of programming at Esplanade Theatres on the Bay expressed his opinion that audience interests are changing, how they process information is changing, the attention spans of the people are changing. So sticking to the rigid traditional styles may not be befitting to the times. When artistes want to improvise and innovate in their costumes and styles that should be acceptable.

Dr. Prasenjit  Duara, Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director, Asia Research Institute and Director of Humanities and Social Sciences Research at NUS was the moderator.

Ms.Gayatri Sriram, dancer and Guru of Shrutilaya and producer of Samarpana,during the interactive session,voiced her apprehension of whether classically trained artistes should move away from formalism to suit the palate of the audience.

The Panel Discussion was held as part of theSamarpana; Asian Festival of Classical Dance  on Sept 29 at the Drama Centre Theatre.