Teaching classical arts to kids

Aishwarya - Bharatham 02
Image by ? ? ?? ? ?? / a n a n d h a m via Flickr

Recently I had been to a Diwali party where a renowned dancer did an impromptu session of abhinaya for the song “Himagiri Tanaye”, composition of Muthiah Bhagavathar in Ragam Shudha Dhanyasi. As I sang and watched her execute the dance steps all the while explaining the mudras I was amazed at the ease with which she related to the kids. There was magic in the air that night and the children couldn’t stop smiling.

The incident reminded me of my own music teachers and how their patience and guidance motivated me through my learning years. Teaching fine arts to children is non-trivial. A teacher has to encourage and inspire the child to scale new heights.

In an age where Bollywood culture is part of our lives, pervasive in almost every corner, training in the classical arts requires a lot of discipline, both mental and physical. I believe that kids have it tougher now than before. When I watch my older child juggle her dance and music classes with a ton of school homework, projects and what-have-you, I realize that time management is critical in her case.

The social milieu makes a big difference too. In Chennai learning Carnatic music and/or Bharata natyam is more common and children there are exposed to a high quality of performances all the year around in almost every neighbourhood. They have role models who seem to be getting younger day by day. But I see a change in the newer breed of classical performers today as they use modern technology and tools to make the classical arts more accessible to the youth. Podcasts, lec-dems, workshops, seminars, learning on skype, and fusion programs help to draw more of the “Pappu can’t dance/sing” crowd to the classical halls.

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