Friday Review » Dance

Updated: February 17, 2010 21:48 IST

Finding connections

Nita Sathyendran
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Italian dancer/choreographer Giovanna Summo.
Special Arrangement
Italian dancer/choreographer Giovanna Summo.

Dancer/choreographer Giovanna Summo will organise a workshop on modern dance in the city next month

Italian dancer/choreographer Giovanna Summo is on a quest to find a connection between Western theatre and modern dance. And where “best” to research on this than in Kerala where the traditional dance-theatre forms such as Kathakali and Koodiyattam “seamlessly blends” the nuances of theatre with expressions and movement, she asks.

Western theatre

“Western theatre is just that. Acting. And modern dance is just dance – only movement and not so much of dramatic elements. Even today to a large extent in the West there is still this division between theatre and dance and there is no tradition of dance-theatre like there is in India,” says Giovanna.

“In fact, it was only in 1980's when Julliard, New York-educated German modern choreographer Pina Bausch and others like her started popularising the ‘Tanztheatre' style of dance(a blend of dance and dramatic elements that grew out of German expressionist dance and which was influenced by the cultural ethos of the Weimar Republic), that the concept of dance-theatre caught onin Europe,” adds Giovanna, who studied ballet and modern dance at the prestigious Dance Academy, Rome. She specialises in the ‘Limon' technique of dance, created in the 1940's by modern dancer/choreographer Jose Limon.

However, it was while on a group-performance tour of India in 1980, that Giovanna first came across the traditional dance-theatre of Kerala. “This was exactly what I was looking for. Kathakali and Koodiyattam, with their equal importance to theatre and dance, simply entranced me. There is something existential about these art forms.” So enthralled is Giovanna, that she has been learning Kathakali under Kalamandalam Rateeshan at Margi on and off for a while now. Back in Rome, Italy, where she hails from, Giovanna also had the opportunity to attend a Bharatanatyam workshop with the “ever-graceful” Alarmel Valli.

Her production

All her observations of Indian dance-theatre were put to good use when in 2005 she premièred ‘Il Sogno Dell' Arte' (Art's Dream), her own production which combined modern dance-theatre and video art and which depicts a surrealistic dream to create art.

Currently, Giovanna is in the city, on a fellowship of the Italian Government to further her learning of Kathakali and continue her research of Indian Dance theatre. From March 26 to April 9, Giovanna, along with Valentina Bellinaso of the Bakxai Dance Company of New York, will conduct a 15-day workshop at the Vyllopilli Samskriti Bhavan on the Limon technique, pioneer modern dancer Anna Sokolow's choreographic repertoire and hold a seminar on the influence of yoga and ayurveda on modern dance, among others.

There will also be a performance by the duo of Anna Sokolow's choreography. To sign up for the workshop contact Giovanna at

Nita Sathyendran

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