The Telegraph
Friday , January 31 , 2014

Govt fund whip on record dance
- Blacklist threat to organisations promoting “tasteless” performances

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 30: The culture department has decided that state fund cannot be used to host dance shows involving skimpily clad girls gyrating provocatively to recorded music in the glare of psychedelic lights.

In a move that runs the risk of being dubbed as cultural censorship or moral policing, the new culture secretary, Arvind Padhee, has asked district collectors to ensure that government money is not spent on such “tasteless” performances, which are popularly known as record dance.

Incidentally, record dance is a common sight across the state and has often been put in the dock for causing “cultural pollution” and seems to be running the gauntlet of purists for past sometime.

Even jatra groups, the flag-bearers of popular culture, cannot do without them.

Coming down heavily on such “cultural shows”, the advisory states that organisations patronising such events should not get any financial support from district culture councils or any other government agency.

The concern of the government apparently stems from the deviant behaviour of the district culture councils, which instead of promoting state’s pure cultural tradition were occasionally seen organising record dance shows.

Determined to put an end to the practice, the culture department has asked these bodies to focus on showcasing folk and classical dance and music, including bhajans from Odisha and other states.

They would also be expected to promote threatened art forms and artistes in distress.

“The district collectors will be held responsible if the directive is not carried out. Since we are providing money to the district culture councils, any deviation will be treated as infructuous expenditure,” said Padhee.

Insisting on maintaining the purity of art and culture, he underscored the need for promoting the varied cultural tradition of the state, including its much-vaunted folk tradition.

Eminent Odissi dancer Saswat Joshi has welcomed the decision. He felt that it would go a long way in preserving the state’s classical art and culture.

“But it should not remain confined to government files. They need to implement it sincerely,” he said.

Director, Nabin Kalakar Foundation, Jagabandhu Jena, too, appreciated the move.

“It should have been done long back. We have seen a lot of cultural pollution with people even taking liberties with bhajans. This is deplorable,” said Jena, who nurtures young Odissi dancers.

However, there were also voices of dissent that slammed the move as an attempt at cultural censorship, which would discourage modern dance.

Jiban Patnaik, who leads a modern dance group, said: “Though financially we are not going to lose much because we rarely get invited to do government-sponsored programmes, we feel sorry that our art is not being recognised.”

Yet others felt this was the beginning of moral policing by the government.

“Soon they may try to ban cheer girls at cricket and hockey matches and then move on to stop record dance shows by jatra troupes. This is not a healthy trend,” said a culture critic, who did not wish to be named.