No makeup. No blackouts. No spotlights. No seamless backdrops.
Stack of books on top of dining table by the side of left over orange juice. Titled posters. Random dining table chairs. Annoying glare of compact fluorescent tubes. Daylight from the wrong direction...barely illuminating the dancer in the foreground...Can the dancers rise above these indispensible clutter of our day today interior residential environments for the benefit of the camera? Can the photographer overcome the limitations of tight interior spaces in capturing the energy, grace and the emotive bearings of the dancer?
Here is a small collection of initimate, in-house performance portraits from the last two years most of them shot within the tight residential spaces in urban neighborhoods - Professor C.V.Chandrasekhar's apartment in Besant Nagar, Chennai ; His disciple Malini Srinivasan's apartment in Queens, New York ; Founder and artistic director of Navarasa Dance Theater - Dr.Aparna Sindhoor’s live-work home/dancer co-op in Sommerville, MA. Perhaps the only exception in terms of scale are the house performance shots of Smitha Radhakrishnan at the single family home of Vallari Shah in Whitefields outside of Bangalore.
Perhaps those center tables, window mullions, light switches and doorknobs in the background don't diminish the visual impact of these dancers. On the contrary, these photos remind us dance is often produced, practiced and refined within the comfort zones of ones personal space, even as it is marketed and consumed in public.
Why are classical Indian dancers almost always pictured formal context - literally elevated on a stage, as they claim the mantle of exclusive ambassadors of a narrow definition of culture. Perhaps we need more photographs like these to divorce the institutionalized relationship between the classical Indian dance as and elite nationalistic representations of culture. Perhaps we need these images to remind us that even classical dance forms at its very core are about the celebration of human body and the joy of personal expression.
As for the photographs for the Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak performances during Independence Day celebrations, there should no cause for concern. There will always be plenty of overdone makeup, misdirected spotlights and dissonant backdrops.