This museum should evoke the cachet of dance. T. NANDAKUMAR finds out how its architecture will help to achieve that end.

The narrow road suddenly opens up to a massive gateway spanning the entrance to the Guru Gopinath Natana Gramam at Vattiyurkavu.

The campus, spread over about one hectare of land, is situated in the middle of a quiet suburban neighbourhood, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. The State-government-sponsored institution is a centre for learning, training, and research in various Indian dance forms, particularly Kerala Natanam, the dance form composed by the late Guru Gopinath, a pioneer reformer of Kathakali.

The sprawling grounds are bare, except for a couple of exposed brick buildings and a framed concrete structure under construction. By next year however, the campus will be home to the country's first dance museum.

The proposed National Dance Museum is conceived as a centre for display, documentation, education, and research on the rich Indian dance heritage. It has been designed to depict a comprehensive picture of the evolution of dance in India and the diversity of forms, including folk, classical, and contemporary styles. The museum is also expected to promote better awareness of dance among schoolchildren.

The state-of-the-art museum complex has been designed to ensure that the natural vegetation and serene neighbourhood are not disturbed, says V.S. Pramod, secretary of the centre. The architecture reflects the distinctive Kerala style with gables and tiled roof. The museum will feature a 22,000-sq.ft display area in the form of 11 galleries.

Each 2,000-sq.ft gallery will showcase sculptures of dancing figures in bronze, stone, terracotta, and wood, illuminated hanging displays, murals, replicas of rock paintings, and engravings depicting dance. They will feature descriptions of Indian folk and tribal dances, musical instruments, costumes and jewellery, models, photographs, paintings, and video footage. The galleries will be equipped with a multimedia touch-screen kiosk and plasma display screens.

Apart from collection, preservation and documentation of objects, the museum will have the role of a venue for education, research, and training. On the anvil are a host of activities, including school-level programmes for students and teachers, public lectures and film shows, an extension service through a mobile museum, temporary exhibitions, publications, and training sessions on dance.

Museologists, conservation experts, veteran dancers, and choreographers from across the country participated in the World Dance Forum, a content-emerging exercise organised by the centre in February to finalise the contours of the project.

“We have had to start from scratch, as a dance museum is being established for the first time in the country. The brainstorming session provided us with a range of options on design, exhibition, preservation, and allied activities,” Mr. Pramod says.

The Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD) has been entrusted with the construction of the buildings for the museum. P.B. Sajan, Director, COSTFORD, says the buildings has been designed for maximum utilisation of natural light and ventilation. The entry and exit are provided at the same point. “We have designed the galleries to ensure that even without barricades, the visitors do not cross each other's path,” he says.

The complex will feature a sloping roof with filler slabs and tiles above. The exteriors will sport a brick finish for an earthy look. The grounds will accommodate a park with benches and seats, a garden, and a parking lot for vehicles.

“The first phase of the project is almost over. We hope to complete the work on the museum within a year,” Mr. Pramod says. The Rs.8.24-crore project is funded by the Union Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

The campus currently accommodates an amphitheatre, an office building, a Smrithi Mandapam (memorial to Guru Gopinath), an indoor hall for dance performance, and a research library on Kerala Natanam.

Mr. Pramod says the museum will be equipped with a state-of-the-art library with books, periodicals, videotapes, reprographic facilities, and a collection of films on dance.

Another innovative element of the project is a gift shop stocked with figurines, note cards, books, and artefacts on dance. The museum has plans to collaborate with universities and other institutions on research projects.