Thoughts on self-assessment
I had this drafted a couple of weeks ago, so it’s long overdue. Hopefully, it’s as helpful to you as it was for me.
I was recently talking with my grandfather, Sri Tumuluri Satyagopal, when he was laying out three ways a student of the performing arts may assess their own work. I’ve extrapolated here based on his cursory remarks. The three ways are
He said that as we begin foraying into the arts, our self-assessment usually starts at a general level: “It sounds good” or “it could be better.” A slightly more experienced student might be able to see whether they are maintaining pitch or balance (in the case of music), or clarity in execution with dance.
This type of general overview is important, and it is a way of ensuring that we are practicing with awareness, and targeting improvement, however incremental, across practices.
As students advance in their craft and begin performing, or watching others perform, they may start assessing their own presentations relative to others. Here, the important thing is, it isn’t basic ranking. It’s not a question of “Who did it better.” Instead, it is about appreciating and understanding differences in interpretation, tone, and approach.
This is something I do a lot with dance items, especially with emotional pieces like Ashtapadis. It is incredible to see which details other dancers key in on, and what shades of a particular emotion they bring in, with which type of body language.
The third critical method of self-assessment is an absolute self-assessment. Like the general self-assessment, it is about looking inward and one’s own practice. This needs to be done with surgical precision, on multiple levels. It is important here not to be overly focused on one aspect of the art to the detriment of the others.