Ask them what they are studying, their career plans, and they will answer with a refreshing array of unique prospects of the kind their parents never had a chance to explore. But, for all that variety, they look frustratingly alike — today's figure-conscious, fashion-alert, multi-tasking Delhi University youngsters. So how do you tell them apart? Just watch them dance. Every body tells a different story. And telling stories is what the 40 dancers of the Yellow Brick Project — comprising primarily students either in DU or just graduated — intend to do at their show, “Dear Delhi”, at Kamani auditorium, July 27 and 28.
The Yellow Brick Project was initiated in 2009 by Nitya Vaishnavi Singh and Prerna Kapur as an open space for people who love to dance. Both were then third year students of Lady Shriram College. “There's no space in Delhi where you can audition and do a musical,” explains Prerna on their motivation.
They presented their first show, “Razzle Dazzle”, in August 2009, and now over the summer holidays have been planning their second. The Yellow Brick Project currently includes some 70 young people ranging in age from 15 to their early 20s.
The dancers come from varying backgrounds. Some, like Nitya (a disciple of Bharatanatyam dancer Jyotsna Shourie) and Akanksha Bhakoo (with a Senior Diploma in Kathak from Prayag Sangeet Samiti), have learnt classical Indian dance, while others like Prerna (who has a background in Jazz and was a Danceworx student) have Western and Indian Contemporary Dance training.
These dancers are not worried about blurred stylistic boundaries. Prerna, who with Nitya auditions all aspirants, says the criterion is whether they are quick to “pick up stuff”.
“We work on an open basis,” she says “Whoever wants to audition, can, and whoever wants to choreograph can do it. That 10 minutes is completely their baby.”
“Dear Delhi” is a series of love stories. “It's not just falling in love but out of love too,” says Udita Bhalla, a third year from LSR and currently secretary of its Dance Society, who, along with Rukman Dhawan, has choreographed a tale of two made-for-each-other professors. “All the 12 are different loves stories. Ours is the most clichéd,” adds Rukman, who just completed her graduation in Sociology from the same college and trained in Bharatanatyam for 14 years under Vasanthi Sridhar. Udita's Bharatanatyam guru for the past 12 years is Saroja Vaidyanathan.
Aditi Anand's choreographic piece is somewhat different. “Corporate”, says the third year B.Com Honours student from Hindu College, depicts “all those multinationals in Gurgaon” where manipulation is the name of the game if you want to reach the top of the ladder, and is based on western contemporary techniques. Ladders, briefcases, a filing cabinet form part of her set.
Speaking of sets, these are being designed by Shagun Sangha, an architecture student from Gurgaon. “This year they wanted to go big,” she says. Building on last year's experience, she worked with the choreographers right from the concept stage. Costumes are by Himangini Mehta and Madhavi Khanna. Much of the music is composed by Clarence Gonsalves, bassist for Them Clones and one of the few full-fledged professionals helping the group.
The dancers' easy working relationship is a lesson for older adults. Prerna, set to join a Masters in Psychology soon, says the members come from various colleges, though LSR has a heavy presence. They are particularly pleased that although during the academic year, they belong to rival teams, over the summer they become one. Sakshi Bajaj, who danced in “Razzle Dazzle” but has opted out to join the communications team this year (partly in preparation for a Masters in Mass Communications), points out that now when they enter competitions, there are students from rival colleges cheering them on too, since they have worked together at Yellow Brick.
Yellow Brick's dancers and choreographers are mentored by Big Dance Centre, with which they have signed a memorandum of understanding, says Prerna. In May before beginning rehearsals, they had a 15-day workshop, followed by further mentoring for the choreographers. The mentors still drop in to watch rehearsals and advise.
The rest of us will have to wait till showtime. Some magic is sure to happen. Why else would you follow the Yellow Brick Road?