Dancers irked by age limit

The decision by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) not to sponsor foreign performance tours for classical dancers aged above 45 has provoked nation-wide disapproval. The ICCR decision has had a cascading effect, with powers-that-be-in local academies thinking along the same lines.

What do people in the field have to say about this?

Deepali Pal, Regional Director, ICCR

“The panel that decides on the selection of artists is composed of artists themselves. The ICCR is certainly not very rigid in implementing this rule-if a dancer is good nothing should matter.”

H.R. Leelavathi, Chairperson, Karnataka Sangeeta Nritya Academy

“I personally feel that there should be an age limit for all performing artists. Even Lata Mangeshkar’s voice is not as it was when she was younger. The Karnataka Sangeetha-Nritya Academy (KSNA) does not have a rule specifying an age-limit for dancers, but more “discreet” methods are in use. We indicate to dancers who still want to perform after a certain age that we would prefer a performance by their students.”

Maya Rao, Director, Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography

“Maybe the ICCR’s decision is correct and there should be some guidelines about who should perform and who shouldn’t. Age can’t be the only criterion. You can’t ask dancers like Kelucharan Mohapatra or Birju Maharaj to stop dancing, just because they are old!”

Padmini Ravi, Bharatanatyam danseuse

“I can’t say if this rule is right or wrong. Of course there are dancers who are out of form, yet somehow use political influence in such government bodies to avail these benefits. A rule like this may help ICCR resist such political pressures. But as a policy it is not right because a dancer is at her best only after 40.”

Bhanumati, Bharatanatyam danseuse

“Dance is not a beauty pageant to have age as the only criterion but, yes, since it is a visual form of art one should be in good form and be able to present the dance aesthetically.”

Vasundara Doraiswamy, Bharatanatyam danseuse

“This rule is absolutely wrong. Artists perform better with age and experience. Of course it is the duty of performing artists, to keep fit and be in form. So a right assessment should be made before the ICCR sponsors artists.”

Vani Ganapathy, Bharatanatyam danseuse

“It is not the age, it is the dancer’s form that is important. While dancers feel the general mindset should change about older performers, pressure is building in culture circles against the ICCR decision. Those who go abroad are ambassadors of our culture; they should be able to answer questions about the art form in its entirety. Perhaps, the ICCR can grade shows and send senior dancers to some and young dancers to others, but this decision to ban those above 45 should definitely be revised.”

Vyjayanti Kashi, Kuchipudi danseuse

“Any decision taken by any organisation needs justification, which the ICCR has not given. Any dancer who has made a mark in the field and who is sought after today is above 40. So this rule does not make any sense, but no doubt the ICCR must also encourage young talented artists by providing them with opportunities.”

Surupa Sen, Odissi danseuse, Creative Director, Nrithyagram

“In dance there is only good dance and bad dance. If a dancer is physically fit and is able to do justice to the style and technique and can hold the audience, I don’t think age should be the criterion.”

T.D.Rajendra and Nirupama Rajendra, Kathak Dancer Couple

“Such a rule really does not matter. If an artist is good, he/she need not depend on ICCR for an opportunity to perform abroad.”

Kiran Subramanyam and Sandhya Kiran, Bharatanatyam Dancer Couple

“The panel that decides on the selection of artists should have artists of good caliber and should make the selection without being biased. Age and experience is very valuable; at the same time younger artists should not be denied the opportunities to perform abroad.”