The Emperor’s New Clothes

Originally Published Sep 6, 2012

“The idea of transactions between bodies, and between bodies and performing space…. A linear non-narrative that moves from one transition to another with an intention to blur the lines of emotionality… To move the emotional from the tangible subjective to an intangible objective”

The above lines describe a highly intellectual and evocative description of a much “acclaimed” work that has played across the country. It left us perplexed. Here we are, graduates from distinguished Universities that have negotiated our paths in the world to achieve what we deem, a success born out of old fashioned values such as intelligence and hard work. We actually prided ourselves on an above average intellect! And that description made us realize how mediocre our intellect was. In plain speak, it made as much sense as equations describing a black hole to a non-physicist.

Words such as the above and the pieces that were played out assaulted our sense of self-esteem in quick succession as we tried our hardest to appreciate art of this nature. This is the usually seen version of contemporary dance.

So, is art meant to be the domain of the masses? Or the exclusive realms inhabited by God’s chosen few who could understand the proceedings and better still appreciate it? This is a question that has been asked possibly since the beginning of art itself. It is asked of art in all it’s forms – be it dance, music, cinema, sculpture, paintings, … in fact any aural or visual media that is produced to evoke a reaction. There is the commercially popular, that is lapped up by the masses and crucified by the connoisseurs. Take a look at an average Salman Khan release and you will know what we mean. And yet, the connoisseurs themselves dream ovations and packed houses. A strange brew of intellectuals that also swear by democracy!
The notion that their art is not understood by the masses simply signifies that they are far too “subtle” and “sophisticated” for the layman to understand. In fact, if understood by the masses, it must be childishly simple and awkward in its treatment. “Something wrong there. That makes the masses equal to me. That cannot be!” So goes the opinion of the self-declared cognoscenti.
In our encounters with the “masses” in our question and answer sessions which followed the Soul Cages performances, we stood humbled, NOT by their blinding intellectual posturing, but by their simplicity and openness. They were not wordsmiths nor masters of the abstract. But they were capable of logical thinking and possessed an ability to discern depth in simplicity. Not obscuring the inane into a vortex of intellectualism. Sometimes a simple story is meant to be just that- simple!


Give us the honest men and women of the street any day. Those high flying sophisticates have plenty to choose from. The only criticism we take seriously is from the audience that represents what we are – every day people.

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