Everything and nothing
Suddenly last night, while watching Satyajit Ray’s Music Room (here), I was thrown into my first ever kathak rapture. (You can (sort-of) watch the performance, by 18 year-old Roshan Kumari, here, but get the film because the you-tube video is just too grainy).
Now, until yesterday, I had thought the art form more or less inconsequential, a mildly entertaining combination of tap (well, bell, really) dancing and mime and thought the celebrated gentlemen of Lucknow — its creators — cutely precious for having spent time and money so lavishly on it — a genteel form of cock-fighting, it seemed to me — done by pretty girls in nice outfits, too. Ray’s presentation of it in the Chess Players — here — only reinforced that view: thedancer in that scene is cute but — rather weak. (This may well have been part of Ray’s design — a way to portray the King as an ineffectual voluptuary).
But now, thanks to the Music Room, I know that tap-dancing-cum-mime is probably what I had seen up to now: there is just an awful lot of really bad kathak out there, it seems. And in dance, the difference between the best and the second best is the difference between night and day: everything and — nothing. Compare the Paris Opera Ballet and anyone at all — I mean, anyone at all — if you have any doubt about that.
One always wonders at the steepness of the quality curve in art — reflected in the structure of the market: with a handful of super-stars taking most of the income (and hogging all the limelight and auction results); but in dance the curve seems steeper than in other art forms.