| Youngsters learn contemporary dance at a school in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee |
Bhubaneswar, June 2: The recent victory of Rourkela girl Rajasmita Kar at a popular national dance reality show has refuelled the craze for modern dance forms across the state.
There has been a shift of interest from the classical Odissi dance to contemporary and Western dance forms since Odia dancers have begun making their mark in various national television reality shows. This has led to the mushrooming of modern dance coaching classes not only in the twin cities but also in smaller towns of the state.
The trend begun with Prince Dance Group from Berhampur winning talent hunt reality show India’s Got Talent in 2009. The troupe, led by Krishna Reddy, included dancers who worked as daily wage labourers and some who had polio. Their impressive performances made the entire nation sit up and take notice.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had even requested the people of Odisha to message and vote for the group and made them heroes overnight.
“We were thrilled to see the support from people back home, including our chief minister. For us, it was a victory of our determination and not just our dancing skills,” said Reddy.
Soon, more names emerged from the state such as Harihar Dash, who was a finalist in the same show the following year and Mandakini Jena, who took part in a national reality show. While these performances had already boosted the modern dance schools in the state, Rajasmita’s victory has brought the spotlight to this genre of dance for all ages.
“We had a good number of students already, but most of them were youngsters. After the winning performances of Odia dancers in national shows, the number of students for Bollywood, hip-hop, contemporary and even salsa and jazz increased rapidly. So we have started inviting dance trainers and choreographers mostly from Calcutta,” said Anju, who runs a dance institute in Bhubaneswar.
“Most dance students today belong to the eight-13 age group. But it is good to see middle-aged men and women also joining our classes to shake a leg either to lose weight or to relax through dance,” she said.
A decade ago, Odissi was the most popular dance form and teachers, on an average, charged Rs 200 a month. But the demand for learning modern dance forms has increased so rapidly that a student of any western dance form pays anything between Rs 600 and Rs 1,500 a month.
Such dance schools have come up in almost every city of the state and some with dubious trainers. “Last year I attended a dance workshop in Berhampur and then one in Bhubaneswar. After, I practising hard I became a good dancer. I have now opened an institute where more than 30 kids learn Bollywood and hip hop dance,” said Prashant, a dance trainer in Kendrapara.
Television channels in the state have also come up with a number of dance reality shows with children competing for the title.
Sociologists say this leads to considerable stress among the participants.
“The aspirations of parents in the state have changed immensely over the past few years. The success of dancers in national television shows has induced parents to push their kids to compete and want them to win all contests. Just like parents earlier used to compare the marks of their children, now they want to see their kids win dance contests. But they ignore the pressure the kids deal with to prove their worth to their parents and the world at a very tender age,” said Sangram Biswal, a sociologist.