Briana Blasko’s new book Dance of the Weave is a delightful meeting place of art, artiste and fabric

Dance. Movement. Drama. Minimalism. Briana Blasko’s beautiful new book Dance of the Weave – A Dialogue between Traditional Textiles and Dance in India, captures the intricate relationship between the body and the fabric and their interaction through a series of portraits. The result of five intensive years of photography and travel across the country, Dance of the Weave is dramatic without overloading our senses. Its no-frills aesthetic sways with the body of the dancer, presenting a peek at a moment of oneness, between the art and the artiste, the fabric and the one adorning it. The book was released on March 10 at Amethyst Café to coincide with the launch of a new shop-within-shop of books called CMYK at the same venue.

Briana, who learnt ballet as a child, took to photography in college. “I’ve been a dance photographer for a long time now. I also worked with The New York Times as a contemporary dance photographer,” she says. Briana moved to India in 2008 and has since worked on this project. “When I was working on a photograph (for the book), I was observing, witnessing and listening. It was great being there in that moment. I had to become one with what was happening without wondering if I understood the context of the dance. I had to let go of that. I captured movement; the way fabric interacts with the dancer’s body,” Briana adds.

She goes behind the scenes at rehearsal sessions and everyday activities of artistes and the result is stunning and very intimate. Through the book, we see dancers preparing for a performance or at a rehearsal session, readying their attire, tying that perfect knot, or while in the middle of a Kathak chakkar (pirouette) as the costume does its own dance… The occasional smattering of folk artistes’ live performance adds a lot of richness to the book as well.

“I was more interested in the handloom aspect of the dance fabric. Which is why there is a sense of minimalism in the book,” Briana says. She started with the eight classical dances and then added some tribal as well as martial art forms (such as Kalaripayattu), in which she has a special interest. “I wanted to capture the behaviour and the mood of the moment; a movement that brings fabric to life,” she says. Ask her for her favourite photographs in the book and pat comes the answer, “They are of the Sattriya monks.” Briana who literally lived the project finally felt that it had all come together during year four of her project.

The book brought out by Penguin Enterprise also features bursts of colour from several weaving centres. Briana’s portraits of Indigo makers kicking their legs in a water-filled vat to oxidise the colour are so alive that we expect water to splash out of the book any minute.

With a foreword by Donna Karan and introduction by Leela Samson, the book also features text by Ratna Raman and Amba Sanyal. “I wanted to capture the dancers in their comfortable, natural clothes,” she adds. And that she has done in great detail in her new book with handwoven dhoties, eight metres of cotton fabric that goes into the making of a dancer’s pagri in Sattriya, the austere Kanjivaram silk sari of the Bharatanatyam danseuse, Gadwal cottons of contemporary artistes, cotton half-sari worn over cotton pyjamas during rehearsals at dance schools like Kalakshetra and a whole lot more.