Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 3 (April-June 1983) p. 21.


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The Dance in India

Rajika Puri

BN RECENT years there has been an increase in the popularity of dance in urban India, as witnessed by the large number of people who attend dance recitals, by the growth in the

number of dance schools, teachers and students of dance in our cities, and also by the increased respectability of dancers and dancing in 'society'. However, we continue to treat dance as an epipheno-menon, as something that exists apart from our social - political, economic and philosophical - selves. We have created a chasm between our everyday concerns and those that are expressed in these 'art' forms^ As a result, even though more and more people are exposed to the dances of different parts of India, there is a sense in which we are still estranged from what happens on stage. It seems to belong to a different world, to some glorious epoch in our unremembered past that we can look back to with pride as we face the vicissitudes of the modern era.

We have enshrined the dance in a host of myths, turned it into a symbol of past glory, and now attempt to protect it from the regeneration' of traditional values that seems to be taking place in urban society in general. Unfortunately, this protectionist or preservationist attitude also .leads to a stifling of normal growth and change, as a result of which our dances face the risk of becoming the very museum pieces that we have seen them as. We think of the dances as being divorced from the people who perform them or whose form of expression they have been and still are. We study them with reference to ancient literary texts and in the context of a two-thousand year old tradition, and give


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