CRITIQUING IS A LEARNING PROCESS - Ahmedabad Mirror, 18.09.2014

It's not often that you get to talk to someone who looks at dance differently. By 'differently', we mean through the eyes of a critic. She learned dance, but went on to critiquing the art form. And veteran dance critic Dr Leela Venkataraman, in the city for a lecture series by SPIC MACAY Gujarat, is an institution in herself. In a chat with Mirror on Wednesday, she shares her journey.

"It is an organised movement of the body to express self, it's a body language," she defines dance. Venkataraman has been critiquing for 30 years now besides writing for several leading journals and newspapers. "I moved to Orissa after marriage; it was a time when Odissi dance was being re-structured and I got involved with interviewing and interacting with dancers. Then, in Delhi, a paper asked me to critique a dance work and then it just took off from there," said Venkataraman of her beginning as a critic.


All critics face criticism, it's an "occupational hazard". "I would say it is a thankless job. One has to be true to the art form, to the job of criticism and to the dancer as well. Over the years, you get that eye (of understanding things). You should know how to separate the dance from the dancer, especially since some dancers take criticism personally. One has to also remember that you are not doing public relations to push their careers," she said.


(Laughs) "I take compliments with a pinch of salt. Sometimes when a dancer comes and praises you, it could be because they want you to write well about them. And brickbats? The one I remember is, 'Do you dip your pen in poison, or in ink?' (laughs) But one has to be prepared. Dancers fall in and out of love with critics!" she said.


Venkataraman has been to a few city schools and colleges during her four-day trip. "I am very happy. Although I have not interacted with children as young as these (school children) and hence was hesitant, it was enjoyable. They are curious, inquisitive, abashed, look in the eye and ask," said the journalist, who has also penned a few books. Her next book, Classical Dance After The Renaissance, should be out in a year.

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