The Pinnacle of an Art

by Anurag Ojha

I saw the 4th installment of the Step-up movie a couple of weeks back. In this movie, the free-spirited dancers no longer danced for a contest. They use their art to express protest against big money corporation who were out to forcefully buy their cherished “hangout” places. I have to say I liked the dance sequences in Step-up 3 better though.

In the movie, the lead actor helps the actress rehearse a dance sequence on the beach. Things get sour between the two and she is at the audition, struggling with her dance routine and emotions. Every time she lost balance the scene would shift to when both of them danced in warm embrace at the beach in the setting sun. Her struggle to maintain form evoked a few thoughts in my mind

Art is like a language. A medium to express yourself, either to your dance partner, an audience or probably even just yourself. This is more apparent in forms of latin dance like Tango, where the exchange of emotion is very visible. An expert of an art, say in piano, should be able to express joy, sorrow or anger playing the same composition. A master should not only be able to express an even greater range of emotions, but also express it with simplicity to a degree that overwhelms even a casual observer. I think that would be the pinnacle of an art.

In any art, its perhaps easy to make the presence of something felt. Is it possible to show the absence? The actress in the movie Step-up tried, it was an Ok effort. I want to see a deeper expression of longing or loss through dance. Perhaps a similar western contemporary dance, where the female performer still in the shock of her partners absence, attempts the duet performance. She goes flying in the air and lands on the hard ground with no arms to break her fall. This sentiment would be ingrained in her routine i.e. she wouldn’t actually crash and hurt herself. The key would be to make you believe that she is counting on someone to be there until the very last moment of a step. And that she will continue to perform with the invisible person until every member of the audience gets it. If I ever meet an accomplished master of dance, I will ask that person to create such a dance sequence.

I am sure there are already attempts to express this emotion in various arts. I hope that I am able to recognize what the artist is trying to say when I see or hear their work. Just like I did when I heard this Cello composition by Joe Hisaishi in the Japanese movie Okuribito “Departures”