Protocol

After another extended break from odissinomad, I am happy to return to blogosphere – almost a lifetime of changes have happened in the past year, both professionally and personally. 

I am currently in my ‘safe space’ after nearly 3 months of touring, enjoying a bit of downtime which I have rarely have, but a welcome opportunity to rest and reboot. 

 During the tour, I had an unexpected ‘dispute’ with someone very close to me. The details around this incident are not worth getting into –  it hurt me deeply and left me quite shaken, but it was something I had to put aside to focus on my work for the remaining time on tour. While I have had conflicts in the past, (though perhaps not while touring), this particular incident really became the straw that broke the camel’s back. In the aftermath of all of this, as I am processing all that has happened and all that had been happening, I am not dwelling on the hurt nor have I allowed it to rob me of my peace of mind. Rather, this incident has been the catalyst for what is currently my own process of reflection, to take a deeper look at myself – as an artiste, as a woman – to identify particular patterns in behavior, re-evaluate my relationships; a look at the past in order to move forward.

For most of my dance career, particularly in my formative years, I openly embraced the set of protocols (for lack of a better word) that were a part of the process of learning and imbibing the Indian classical art traditions – Rules that we were expected to abide by as students which would lay the groundwork for our path to becoming artistes; rules that would guide us to excellence.  I believed that it was necessary to follow these protocols, particularly in the formative years, as they established a process and code of conduct that allowed not only for steady progression and growth, but also kept the ego, which can be an artist’s own undoing, in check. I believed these processes were necessary for students to reach their fullest potential as artists. And so I fully embraced these protocols and the system that contained them. 

 From time to time, I would notice certain ‘exemptions’ from established protocols by particular individuals. Back then, I didn’t think too much about it, but as I grew older I became increasingly unsettled by the double-standards surrounding these protocols. I was admonished for pointing them out, I didn’t have the right to question or object. I guess in the end, it was my inability to accept these hypocrisies that would cause me to rebel later on in my career, when I realized these protocols were not only arbitrary, but also limiting both artistically and professionally. 

That said, I still believe certain protocols are necessary for the classical artist, particularly in the formative years – it is when protocol is manipulated to serve personal interests, rather than the dance, do we see the beginning of the end of the art form. And the decline has already started. More and more we are losing talented, committed artists because they are losing faith in the systems that created, but then forgot, about them. 

 Of late I have been thinking a lot about protocols, and the need to re-examine these in the current context. How to create systems that cultivate excellence that ultimately enrich the art form. I have been thinking a lot about my role and contribution to all of this, I remain committed as an artist – to the art form and to represent as best and honestly as I can. I hope other artists on this path will continue their journey in the same.  

Detroit, MI. June 27, 2018. 

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