Come 31st December the curtains come down on the Music Season. To the Man from Madras Musings it always ends the year on a great note. But of late MMM finds that there is more happening post January 1st, when the dance festivals begin. MMM of course is not so actively involved with the terpsichorean art but his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed takes an interest in it and so MMM too tags along, on occasion. But there is only so much MMM can take of gazing at the moon, lamenting over non-arrival of beloved, fearing the attacks of bees and pining for union.
Music and dance may be two sides of the same coin but they are in reality two worlds – at least from what MMM sees each year. And in this he is looking chiefly at the audiences. Music attracts a largely elderly crowd, though MMM must admit that the number of youngsters (read 60 and below) is going up with time. Dance has people in their twenties or at most thirties. This was rammed home to MMM when he found that while for many of his acquaintances in the former world, he, MMM, is a mere stripling of 50 or so who has probably heard just a few live concerts of Mrs Melody Sublime, to the latter world he is a venerable old uncle of 50, who can talk about the dance world of the 1980s! In fact many young ballerinas and ballerinos refer to MMM as uncle and he often wonders in private if they speak of him as grandfather or worse, Old Father Time.
And then there is the matter of dress. The average Carnatic Music audience dresses in just about any fashion – crumpled dhoties, ill-fitting t-shirts, sarees wrapped around anyhow and monkey caps/earmuffs are the norm though MMM must admit that many, especially the front row types do strive for sartorial elegance. But if you really wanted to see dernier cri, you need to be at the dance festival. Here all is chic – the best designer wear, eyes made larger with eyeliner, and the most expensive of accessories. Audience talk during dance programme breaks verge around Monaco, Milan, Montmartre and such places while in the music concerts it largely deals with children in San Jose, Houston, Massachusetts and at times the lowly Abu Dubai (wherever that is). In matters of health, the music audience focuses on afflictions such as hernia (spoken of as Hiranya in Madras), bypass and at an unguarded moment even fistulas while the dance audience does not speak on such topics though it can size up in one glance an uplift, a tuck, an implant or a bariatric surgery. The dance lot focuses on six packs while the music lot invariably carries six bags and more – comprising water bottles, snacks, medication, cell phones (not on silent mode), umbrellas and song books.
To give the dance group further credit, MMM must acknowledge here that they are a pretty disciplined lot. They either stay away in bulk from many performances or attend in full strength and when they do, they stay put right through the performance. The music audience on the other hand, is notorious for its peregrinations, which may be age-related – frequent ambles down the aisles for calls of nature (other calls – from spouse at home, domestic help, children abroad – are attended from the seat even while the performances are in progress, replete with cries of ‘haanh? I cannot hear, I am in concert, please speak louder’), canteen breaks and general blood circulation breaks. So when it comes to audience discipline full marks to the dance crowd. Sadly, the music lot fails in comparison.
At the canteen, the music audience sticks to the time-tested South Indian recipes. The dance aficionados wonder as to why pastas (whole wheat), cow’s milk (organic of course) and juices are not served.
Lastly, MMM must add that the dance festival brings in audiences from all over Chennai, replete with Vice Consuls and diplomatic corps from countries ranging from Ruritania to Lower Mbtungo on the Congo. The music audience is chiefly from Mylapore and T. Nagar.