Social Media: The New Space for Dance Festivals (PART II)

True, social media platforms have democratized artistic activities by opening the doors to all. All the same, nurturing a quality to it merits more attention. 

As social mobility continued to face restrictions so as to check the spread of the coronavirus, online performance began turning out to be the most demanded activity among dancers. Artistes took this opportunity to market themselves as well as promote their friends. Many were eager to get more number of views and subscription of their channels. 

Likes and comments express public acceptance and criticisms. Most of such feedback were superlative, rather than authentic, appreciations. Assessments were mostly peripheral: praising comments or emojis. Presentations and festivals were applauded and upbraided. Senior critics and writers, initially silent, gradually began to express their views online. A newly-emerged ‘critics’, who were over-exposed to online dance festivals during the period and their superficial reviews, went quite eccentric. Deep discussions always happened only among the core groups of artistes, scholars and audiences.

Digital imbalances of artistic recognition

The greyer shade of the online festivals is that most of the shows were unpaid. Artistes seeking for chances were exploited without paying their expenses for performing and recording the recital. Organizers had their own claim: scarcity of sponsorships. Several artistes and art-lovers expressed dissatisfaction with the online exhibition of performance.

Even so, the number of shows kept increasing by the day. Artistes also expressed their worries about their existence in terms of financial and professional growth. A few of the festivals were brilliantly curated even within the limitations. Some of the organizers managed to pay the artistes and addressed their talent.

Now, after many trials, the online festivals are trending in social networking sites for which several artistes are longing for. ‘Marking the presence’ has become the priority for artistes rather than financial benefits. However, this time has been challenging for dancers as well as for supporting artistes, since these platforms were not meeting their aids. Artistes who were taking classes in kalakendras or ‘offline’ have prepared themselves to switch on to online classes. This has given a ray of hope for them in terms of revenue and living.

The future

Over the past ten months, performances are flowing freely to all. YouTube classes and learning sessions are accessible to everyone. As a result, a new system of learning, performing and appreciating dance has emerged. It is true that the online platforms have democratized the artistic activities as it is open to all. However, little attention is paid in nurturing quality. 

Online dancing trend has enabled greater audiences by attracting them to classical dances. Users are able to watch performances freely; watch anytime based upon their convenience, use of ubiquitous online streaming applications have gained not only existing audiences but also new users. Dance videos performed and uploaded by artists enabled new viewership, popularity and discussions online. 

However, what still post a question is about the sustainability of viewership for classical dances.  Social networking sites are always a platform for those who are active and are updated each time rather than considering it only as an ultimate space for fostering art. 

A few efforts lead to critical debates on classical dance areas; but, this space is still not considered as an appropriate medium to access authentic information. This is because it is open to all and anybody can present a fact differently. Hence, people use social media mainly for marketing, publicity, and entertainment. Exposure in social media is wider and faster than getting it through mainstream media. This has given an opportunity to emerging dancers and artistes to test their luck through an online channel. Moreover, it has also created opportunities for boundaryless audiences as videos uploaded are watched worldwide creating audiences globally. Needless to say, there are also a few addicts to artistes for their unique performances.

Note of caution

At this juncture, artistes are to be cautious and vigilant upon the pros and cons of being online. Particularly, extreme alert has to be taken while approaching with dance training and its appreciation. Be consciously aware not to be fallen in a fantasy world. The ‘emoji’ comments are momentary and not valid forever. Classical dances are not meant to be treated as a leisure game. YouTube is not the ultimate guru. 

Aspirants can use these platforms as an alternative way to learn and explore more so as to be prepared for a better tomorrow. Facilities are meant to be used efficiently to enrich ourselves with the knowledge and to save the art-form from laxity. The ‘online trend’ may continue forever, but a big world is waiting for us to be back livelier. After the pandemic, social media’s role ought to be remembered with its reconstructive than destructive role in the arena of classical dances. What remains perpetual can’t be visually rich in virtual every time.

Read Part 1 here

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