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Old traditions, new attitude

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PERSONAL INTERPRETATION From an Attakkalari performance
PERSONAL INTERPRETATION From an Attakkalari performance

The Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts reinterprets classical art forms in a contemporary way. It is now offering a diploma course

Dancers today have broadened their horizons not just with content, but also with the fundamental form itself. Today's dancers aren't just going by what is written in the Natyashastra andthe Gita Govinda or what they learnt in the gurukuls. Instead, contemporary dance, the most common manifestation today, has become more concerned with identity, creative expression and the melding of digital technology with physical expression.Jayachandran Palazhy, a name synonymous with Indian contemporary dance and the man behind the Attakkalari Centre For Movement Arts, is one such dancer who is driven by a passion to spread this idiom. He has undergone intensive training in Bharatanatyam, Kalaripayattu and Kathakali for years.

Starting early

"I started dancing as a teenager. Hence I began to question everything I was learning. Bharatanatyam is a distilled language, perfected over centuries. Though I was fascinated with the style I had a problem with the content. It does not tell my story. Rather it is someone else's story I narrate; someone else's emotions I depict - about Lord Krishna stealing butter or Radha's love for him, for instance. So I questioned the authenticity of this form. Contemporary dance is not a form but an attitude to dance where the emphasis is on originality. You create it, so you perfect it," he says.He warms to the theme: "Indian classical dances are like reference libraries where we can research and construct new ways. You get a lot of material for contemporary dance from these and it is these dance styles that help you understand the structure and develop a command over the language of movement. They form a solid basis for contemporary dancers and help them improve their dance."Even when it comes to his choreography, one can see definite traces of Kalari and Bharatanatyam that have won him national and international accolades. He has organised national and international events connected with contemporary dance, including festivals, seminars and residencies. His dance studio has produced several productions often involving international partnerships and collaborations, particularly in the digital arts. "We have set up large dance studios with wooden floors and large mirrors." Why wooden floors? "That's because studies show that concrete flooring is bad for the heel and the spine. Even in the earlier days, dancers were trained to dance on mud or sand. These days the study of anatomy is important to build healthier dancers."Jayachandran follows the principle of catching them young and so he and his team have designed an education outreach programme that is supported by the India Foundation for the Arts, where they interact with 14 schools in Bangalore. "It's a day of multiple intelligences where we introduce subjects like new developments, concept of space, music, inter and intra personal relationships, and so on. Dance also includes a lot of math, geometry and history and so it can become part of the regular curriculum where children can be initiated into this beautiful art form at an early age." And for those who want to take their dancing more seriously, Attakkalari is starting a Diploma in Movement Arts and Mixed Media that commences from September this year. "We never had a dance institute to develop contemporary dance that is influenced either by martial arts, yoga or the Indian classical dance," explains Jayachandran, who is also the Artistic Director of Imlata Dance Company, London. "Our students will be trained as professional dancers and can also get a job easily as they are already functioning as artistes while we train them in the art of time management, communication skills and more. There are a lot of opportunities with a lot of money for talented and hardworking dancers today in the national and international arena," he promises and in return expects "the next generation of highly intelligent dancers to be dedicated to the overall development of the children that they work with". Along with dance and choreography he has included digital arts "as this will help the Indian dancers to be on a par with anyone else in the world. Attakkalari is driven by young, energetic people who have a passion for dance." The Diploma in Movement Arts and Mixed Media is open to those aged above 16 years and "anyone with strength, agility, interest and a wish to broaden their horizon is welcome to be part of Attakkalari," he says, pointing out that the course isn't for those who are there to just make a fast buck. The three-year diploma course will cost Rs. 60,000 per annum, where dancers will go through an intensive programme led by teachers from the Indian and international arena. Some scholarships will also be given, "as we want people from every social status to have a chance to learn dance". AuditionsAttakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bangalore, will hold an audition to "recruit dancers and trainee dancers" in Chennai on September 3, 10 a.m. Anyone aged between 16 and 30 with an interest "in developing a career in dance" can walk into Alliance Francaise, Chennai. Dancers have to present their recent bio-data and carry loose practice clothing (tracksuit and T-shirt), be present at the venue 15 minutes before the starting time. Those selected can join the Attakkalari repertory and get a professional diploma in movement arts and mixed media, become a member of the education outreach team to teach dance in schools, corporate houses and other community centres. Trained dancers will also be considered for independent projects, national and international residencies, workshops and participation in festivals. Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts is located at 24-04 BTS Bus Depot Road (Behind Mandovi Motors), Wilson Garden, Bangalore - 27, phone: 91-080-22123684 / 22123809 email: attakkalari@gmail.com website: www.attakkalari.org

SHILPA SEBASTIAN R.

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