Facets 2006 which has 37 participants from various parts of the world, is about the possibilities of a democratic, non-hierarchical approach to creating dance. It seeks to explore the notion of the body in digital space

When the Attakkalari Centre for the Movement Arts was launched in Bangalore in 1992, no one could guess its future. Today, the global dance grapevine is buzzing about Facets, its international choreography laboratory, held every alternate year.Professor Christopher Bannerman, who leads the inter-cultural, trans-disciplinary team of facilitators at Facets 2006, can vouch for this — from recent exchanges with contemporary dancers in Ireland, Sweden and Iceland. In the thick of the third lab, underway at the verdant Ecumenical Christian Centre campus at Whitefield (January 7 to 27), the current head of Res-Cen (Centre for Research into Creation in the Performing Arts) at Middlesex University, UK, reflects: "This lab offers dancers and choreographers an opportunity to focus on the process, to initiate ideas, free of performance pressure."

Overseas participants

The ongoing lab has 37 dancers and choreographers as participants — 15 from India, 22 from countries like the UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Australia, Bangladesh. For the first time, African dancers are in its midst. The roll call includes Emanuela Lacopini from Luxembourg, Mhairi Allan from Scotland, Javier Murrugaren from The Netherlands, and Rashpal Singh Bansal from England. What distinguishes Facets 2006, from its earlier avatars in 2002/ 2004? Attakkalari's artistic director Jayachandran Palazhy, whose brainchild Facets is, muses: "We're interested in exploring both the global body and personal space. What is the notion of the body in a digital world? How does the internal/ external body connect with the space around? We're looking at these questions through young artistes and constantly evolving practices." Some works in progress will be shared at an open house session from 6 p.m. onwards on January 26.Facets offers participants a galaxy of inter-disciplinary mentors/ facilitators. Such as UK's Joseph Hyde, who uses digital media to make sound and multi-media works, installations and performances, Italian philosopher turned landscape designer Lorenzo Brusci, known for his creative sonic garden in Florenceand Israel-born, UK-based Yael Flexer of the Bedlam Dance Company, who stretched, teased and helped to redefine notions at dance at Facets 2002. That's besides Kerala-born multi-instrumental artiste Chandran, equally fluent with the chhenda or the sax, yoga instructor H.S. Arun, and sonic artist Rajeevan Ayyappan.

Break free

While Facets 2002 created distinct footnotes to global dance, the next lab was notable for its mind spaces for breaking free. Lorenzo, explains: "These dancers have their expressive needs and specific skills. My job is to shake their certainties, to think of the professional implications of our experiments clearly, even to offer alternate spaces."As an offshoot of a gruelling session with Swedish lighting expert Thomas Dotzler, dancers stretch another boundary. By understanding the totality of performance by whirling and freezing, crouching and leaping, to create alternate dimensions through shadows and brightness. Abandoning the overarching flexibility of the last Facets, the current lab is consciously veering away from enslavement to technology. That's despite the plethora of video cameras and laptops among participants. "Facets is about the possibilities of a democratic, non-hierarchical approach to creating dance. So, dancers/ choreographers gain hands-on experience of lighting and sound design," stresses Hyde. "Being here, India seems to live more in the future than in the past." It is an approach best expressed by another facilitator, Japanese digital artist Matsuo Kinihiko, within whose Nest practice artists master all-round performance aspects. Rebecca Wangui Gatu, a Kenyan dancer, adds: "At Facets, I'm excited about how Indian traditions have been integrated into contemporary forms. That's similar to how our contemporary dance relates closely to African culture." Mirra, from the Attakkalari repertory, is participating as a choreographer this time. She says, "Facets has given me the confidence to articulate my ideas, present them confidently before an audience."

Parallel performances

What will January 26 bring to Bangaloreans? Beyond the parallel performances on the floor and the wall conjured up by Chennai dancer Andrea Jacob and German multi-media expert Christian Ziegler in 2002? Beyond breakaway jungle moves brought to urban dancers by German movement artist Christopher Lechner in 2004?"Labs like Facets are essential for us to understand newer media, to inhabit alternate spaces," concludes Palazhy. "At earlier labs, we were interested in breaking down barriers. But now we need to create boundaries because the global dancer can be so similar in Tokyo, London, New York or Mumbai." That's a thought to reckon with. An inkling of what makes Facets outstanding. No wonder there's a global buzz about its creativity, as Bannerman discovered en route to Bangalore. (For more on the January 26 works in progress, call 22123809/ 3684)