Connecting the world through dance

Veteran dancer and choreographer Jonathan Hollander will interact with artists in the city

Published - January 17, 2020 12:07 pm IST

Veteran dancer and choreographer Jonathan Hollander founded Battery Dance ( a community into art education) in Lower Manhattan in 1976.

Six years later he founded the Battery Dance Festival which is now New York City’s longest-running public dance festival. Widely recognised as one of the outstanding choreographers of his generation, his works have been presented in major theatres and festivals across five continents.

He co-founded the Indo-American Arts Council in 2000 in New York City and served on its Board until 2018. Jonathan was named Adjunct Professor by the Indian Institute of Finance and represented the U.S. performing arts field at the inaugural conference on Soft Power in New Delhi in December, 2018.

In an email interview with The Hindu MetroPlus , Jonathan shares his journey in dance and views on contemporary dance in India.

The founding of Battery Dance in 1976 changed the way contemporary dance was experienced. Tell us about those early days?

The dance world in New York in 1976 was transitioning from the modern dance pioneers such as Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor to a new generation of creators in a more conceptual vein. The classical ballet world was in the final brilliant period of Balanchine and Jerome Robbins and there was a pretty clear distinction between ballet and modern. That gap has since disappeared and big ballet companies regularly commission contemporar

y choreographers and contemporary dancers often study ballet as their technical foundation. For me, the availability of well trained ballet dancers with a modern sensibility has been a boon and inspired my movement vocabulary

Your association with India and Indian dance goes back to the nineties. How do you see the evolution of contemporary Indian dance culture in the last two decades?

When I came to India on a Fulbright lecturing assignment in 1992, there wasn’t much available in the way of ballet or modern/contemporary training. Few ventured into an experimental territory and those that did faced vocal criticism for being un-Indian. Nowadays with people like Sumeet Nagdev, Terence Lewis, Ashley Lobo and institutions like Attakkalari, change is happening rapidly.

India has a rich history of traditional dance but contemporary and modern dance is still quite untapped. Comment.

Chandralekha, Kumudini Lakhia, CV Chandrasekhar, Mrinalini and Mallika Sarabhai, Manjusri and Ranjabati Sircar all proved that one could bend the classical vocabulary to suit a strong individualistic sensibility. I think it just takes determination and many today have that in full.

There is an explosion of dance in small cities in India— Cinematic dance, Bollywood etc. What do you have to say about this trend?

I support dance of all genres. I do hope that people don’t confuse or lose sight of the fact that it takes years of meticulous training to really master any form.

On a personal note what is your relationship with dance and what does it mean to you?

Dance is the funnel into which I pour my passions and ambitions. I feel lucky that I have been able to pursue a lifelong career that has had so much richness of experience, relationships and inspiration

Tell us about your Kerala connect. What are you going to talk about and showcase here?

I am bringing the new documentary film that has attracted so many awards and has touched audiences in film festivals and exclusive screenings in the U.S. and internationally since its première at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in February, 2018. I am excited to interact with artists and students at Lokadharmi and College of the Sacred Heart and share this inspiring film with them.

Jonathan Hollander will hold interactive sessions at Lokadharmi Nadakaveedu, Nayarambalam on January 17 (6:30 pm) and at Sacred Heart College on January 18 respectively . Dance film Moving Stories will be screened.

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