Lec-dem Different views on classical dance were tossed around and its space in the contemporary context, discussed.
Sharing artistic spaces enables the coming together of creative energies in a way that can enrich an artistic endeavour. Indian dance which shares space with so many musicians, with thematic choices and subjects taken from the work of poets and lyricists, is already operating in an collaborative space.
Working with other disciplines not a part of one's dance needs to be an arrangement among equals, said Astad Deboo throwing light on his collaboration with puppetry, martial arts, Manipuri dancers and theatre persons, not to speak of music of different genres. He was among the many speakers at the just-concluded Natyakala Conference organised by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.
Anita Ratnam, the other person in this dialogue, spoke of her urge to tap personal mythologies as part of her collaborative work, with the willingness to accept kinetic and visual ideas from outside. There was need to rise above centre spacing oneself, and to subject oneself to the brutal process at the end of rejecting everything considered superfluous. Astad mentioned that working with a form like Manipuri with conservative gurus, he was happy that segments he had set for the Manipuri dancers in his productions were being used by the Manipuri Guru in pure Manipuri recitals. For Astad, it was a vindication that collaborating with him was not in any way impoverishing the dance.
Geeta Chandran spoke of her collaboration with a puppeteer in “Her voice”. Her collaboration with theatre in Kaikeyi in which the vachika she had learnt from Guru Swarna Saraswati along with Director Rashid's integration of Butoh and Kabuki and snatches of Tai Chi Chu'an, had been a new experience. In her dialogue with Ramli Ibrahim, both shared love and respect for the traditional idiom imbibed from the Gurus (Bharatanatyam for Geeta and Odissi and Bharatanatyam for Ramli) while feeling the need to rise to the challenge of adapting the dance vocabulary for an evolving global audience. Stretching the dance to accommodate Malay, Muslim and Male needs was Ramli's constant challenge. Geeta also traversed the two worlds - one totally margam loving and the other demanding of themes and vibes which were different. The trump card was Geeta's spontaneous singing of snatches of Haveli sangeet – for the best way to win the heart of the Chennai arts enthusiast is thorough good singing.
For Indian dancers based abroad like Lata Pada, Rama Bhardwaj, Ratna Kumar, Harikrishnan, Arvind Kumaraswamy and Siri Rama, collaboration was not a new experience for living in a climate where their art forms lived along with several others, their endeavour was to integrate with different worlds while keeping the integrity of each world intact, coming together to create interesting content with no clash. How to educate their transnational children on Indian culture without coercion remained the main challenge. “We do not think of ourselves as NRI in Singapore for our own home grown Gurus have already presided over countless arangetrams. For us India is one big country not Chennai alone” said Aravind Kumaraswamy, a multi-faceted talent in music, dance and theatre settled in Singapore and working across the globe in countries east and west.
Funding through arts Council bodies was touched upon – all maintaining, in answer to a query from V.P. Dhananjayan, that no political agenda governed these issues. But that it is not so simple in the U.K. (no representatives on the panel) is known. New Directions in Dance brought in performances by Arangham Trust, Natya –Stem Dance Company and Samudra. The overstretched presentation leaving the audience with a brain fag showed Samudra as the best. One found a clear objective of what was to be shown missing in the Stem Dance work though segments were brilliantly rendered. The work by Arangham Trust participants needs to evolve much more.
The term avant-garde could be applied to Padmini Chettur's work. Obligingly stepping into the breach caused by an absent Kumudini Lakhia, she spoke with clarity though what she showed of excerpts from her work, with technical snags making a disjointed show of the screening, seems to take the body to a space where it deliberately sheds all cultural memory in an unembroidered version, not easy to understand for those not familiar with such an approach to the dance.
No dance exists without creating and even for gurus like Kelucharan Mohapatra, the inner world of their dance carried the images fashioned by outer experience. Sujata Mohapatra showed in her charming demonstrations how the expressive body in Odissi was stamped by imagery, coming from the daily life experience of the Guru.
That at each age flowing through Time, the dance is “Re-imagining the image” was brought out by Chitra Visveswaran in a lucid talk with demonstrations. Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai's failing health with age and refusal to permit any of his margam items being presented without his nattuvangam, meant that Chitra had to forge new territory through her own items. These bear the stamp of urges stemming from her life experiences. How she with her husband's musical inputs created a work showing Meera and Andal and how her ideas of the regional cultures and backgrounds which would have coloured the bodily expressions of the two heroines, shaped the choreography, was interesting. It was very heartening to see students Vijay Madhavan, Aroopa Lahiri and Chitra herself interpret ‘Shambho Mahadeva' differently but to great effect.
Gautam Bhattacharya's talk on Lighting for the Dance, and Uttara Asha Coorlawala and Jayaprada Ramamurthy speaking on copyright and ownership, which are difficult to establish in the old art forms passed on from one generation to the next, needed more time for audience responses.
Keywords: Astad Deboo, Anita Ratnam, Geeta Chandran, Ramli Ibrahim, Lata Pada, Rama Bhardwaj, Ratna Kumar, Harikrishnan, Arvind Kumaraswamy and Siri Rama, Sujata Mohapatra, Chitra Visveswaran, Gautam Bhattacharya, Uttara Asha Coorlawala, Jayaprada Ramamurthy