2022 - The year of Instagram Arts
As International Dance Day approaches us on the 29th of April, it is a time of reflection, celebration, and healing for all dancers across the world. Every year, social media plays a big role in reassuring the dancer’s identity. It is filled with photos of dancers adorned in costumes with a caption to commemorate that day. Be it the change in profile pictures or a story update, be it from real-time, the recent past, or from ages ago, it is the day where every dancer looks into this identity that has shaped their lives in so many ways, big or small. This virtual identity becomes a big part of the real person that the dancer is and influences the spaces they occupy as dancers.
Identity and space
Social media can be a daunting place for identity-making. In some ways, it forces you to take on and display identities in certain ways to reaffirm and make one feel like they belong. In the light of the pandemic especially that took almost all of the performance into this virtual space, there is now no shortage of Instagram pages solely dedicated to the purpose of dance. The most interesting emergence is the professional page set-up Instagram offers, which allows you to identify as an artist. This feature then provides a virtual space driven with the purpose to learn and connect with others in the same field as you. This important, special identity boosted by the professional account then re-affirms your space in the world you want to belong to separate from the personal space you have. What differentiates this virtual space from any other physical space of dance is, that one need not be on the status of a professional to gain access to enter this space. Rather, how well you use the resources of the space determines your “success” in calling yourself a dancer. Having this almost utopian equality in terms of access, being able to customize a space for your expression through dance not constrained by the other identities you carry as a person, seems to be a liberating change from the elite sabha culture.
The problem of fitting into boxes- between the self and social
Perhaps a jarring constraint is that of the boxes within which one must fit themselves. Learning to move within these frames is a skill that has become a must for dancers to have in the recent past. While it may seem that the boxes draw boundaries and cage-free movement for the viewer, behind these frames is a network of collaborations that have brought together so many artists from far and wide. The virtuality of the space removed the need for physical proximity for a somatic practice, with the production of the final output becoming largely divided and individualized. From the beautiful terrace views and personal spaces used in the making of a social product, each of the artists contributes in their own ways, be it the choreography, the music, the camera work, or the editing, where each has a role to play, and, it is in this coming together that the magic happens within the cages of the boxes. Perhaps this dance day, we urge ourselves to think more of dance as not just the dancer that moves, but the magic of dance performance that comes to life through the non-dancers.
What becomes of the space that you occupy as a dancer in the real world? The ever-lasting space of Instagram continues to exist in the post-pandemic world with physical spaces opening up too. How does one carry the Instagram dancer identity into the real world? Perhaps the importance of collaboration that comes with dance and equal access for all can be reflected in the physical spaces that hold the purpose of movement. Perhaps, on this dance day, we can aim to build an inclusive notion of Dance- not just art but also as identity builders, as a collective, and dance that is dance at the end of the day.
Shreyaa Suresh is a passionate dancer, theatre actor, and an aspiring academic, based in Chennai. A post graduate student in anthropology & sociology, she hopes to pursue a doctorate in performing arts and academic writing.