With very little attention given to arts education in Indian universities, the country's classical art forms could end up as the biggest casualty, according to experts. Even while India boasts of a magnificent variety of classical dance forms, they are under threat of Western dance invasion as children are taking to salsa, hip hop and other dances “that look like mass drill on stage”, said one of the participants at the National Conference on Relevance of Fine Art Education in 21st Century held here. The conference called for standardising course contents and teaching methods to ensure that “our achievements and developments in music, arts and other forms are not out of sync with global demands.” Traditional systems need to be integrated with modern technological inputs, the delegates said. The event, organized by Agra's Kriti Kala Sansthan and supported by the union ministry of human resource development, focussed on the state of arts education in Indian universities in a globalised scenario. The delegates felt that not enough was being done and there was a definite lack of will at all levels to upgrade and modify age-old teaching methods and syllabi. “While other disciplines were receiving state patronage and support of all kinds, music and fine arts departments in most universities lagged behind and were treated like backwaters,” said Lovely Sharma, convener of the conference. Sharma is an internationally acclaimed sitarist and music therapist and author of a dozen books. She said that the quantity of output was increasing at the cost of quality and there was general deterioration in standards. A large number of fine arts teachers and artistes from Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore, Darbhanga, Indore, Udaipur, Kanpur, Patna and dozens of other universities participated in the conference. According to Jyoti, a dance teacher from the Central Hindi Institute, “Indian classical dance forms are under threat from Western dance invasion. Children are taking to Salsa, hip-hop and other variants including what looks like mass drill exercises on the stage.” Indu Joshi, another participant, said in order to make fine arts teaching relevant in a globalised world, it was necessary to update and adapt course contents with use of modern pedagogical tools and equipment, and integration of information and communication technology to facilitate students market their art works. Ritambhara Ranawat of Udaipur felt that the syllabus of fine arts all over India definitely needed drastic changes. “An aptitude test must be made compulsory to ensure that only those who had the required level of interest and passion got enrolled. The 21st century requires a broad spectrum approach to the relevance of fine arts in the micro and macro systems of our educational, social and cultural heritage,” said Ranawat. Manisha Dohre of Agra College said a new framework was being constructed for the “consumption and interpretation of fine arts. This has both a colonial legacy and a transnational future.” Darbhanga's Lawanya Kirti Singh Kabya said the “credit for establishing music in India as an independent discipline goes to Vishnu duo Pandit Vishnu Digambar Palushkar and Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, who held music is not only for recreation but is an art par excellence.” Indira Agarwal of Aligarh said “making students understand the grammar of visual language and making them appreciate its potential must definitely be one of the most important goals of an art academy.” According to Sadhna Singh, “the most basic requirement of art appreciation is the awakening of the observant eye to enable it to see differences in styles. Once the eye is trained, art appreciation becomes easier.” “To achieve this, all attention must be diverted from the subject matter to the form. True appreciation of art is nothing but the discovery of how an artist expresses his ideal of beauty through his vision of form,” she said. Baroda University's A.S. Pathan said the age-old guru-shishya parampara system was undergoing a change in view of new methodology of teaching and introduction of technology. Mysore's Padmavati Narasimha discussed the relevance of Rasas with reference to contemporary music and dance. Rohit from Chandigarh said music therapy is now gaining acceptance the world over after it has been proved to have beneficial effects on the state of health. Therefore there was a need to promote research and develop teaching modules on scientific lines. Debasis Chakrobarty, secretary of the Kriti Kala Sansthan, said this conference proved a big success as the interaction and recommendations have helped draw up a general framework within which the fine arts education in the whole country must proceed.