The Asian Age - - Dance+ - Ran­jana Dave

EVEN OVER the tele­phone, the sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion, and some­times, un­cer­tainty, is elec­tric. The as­pir­ing chore­og­ra­phers at the Gati Sum­mer Dance Res­i­dency are busy pre­par­ing for their fi­nal joint pre­sen­ta­tion, a week be­fore the for­mal show­case, “ All Warmed Up”, at New Delhi’s Shri Ram Cen­tre on June 15-16, 2011. One res­i­dent re­marks, “ There is the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing com­pletely shat­tered.” Hav­ing spent 10 weeks shap­ing their per­for­mances, map­ping the path to prob­a­ble fruition and then un­rav­el­ling threads, their works are now deeply per­sonal, too in­ti­mate to be de­scribed in suc­cinct lines.

The Gati Sum­mer Dance Res­i­dency ( GSDR) be­gan in 2009, aim­ing to as­sist would-be chore­og­ra­phers from di­verse dance back­grounds in de­vel­op­ing in­di­vid­ual chore­o­graphic works over a pe­riod of 10 weeks. The chore­og­ra­phers have ac­cess to fi­nan­cial sup­port, in­di­vid­ual men­tor­ing, pro­duc­tion as­sis­tance, work­shops and re­hearsal space dur­ing the res­i­dency. Now in its third year, GSDR ex­pands its reach to sup­port six res­i­dents from di­verse per­form­ing arts back­grounds. They are Ni­ran­jani Iyer, Mehneer Su­dan, Deepak K. Shivaswamy, Mayuka Ueno Gayer, Ruk­mini Vi­jayku­mar and Sur­jit.

GSDR is per­haps the only res­i­dency in In­dia to sup­port young chore­og­ra­phers. “ This is a fab­u­lous op­por­tu­nity that en­cour­ages young chore­og­ra­phers to in­dulge in their own creativ­ity. It is also a great net­work­ing point – In­dia is so big; the range of peo­ple do­ing con­tem­po­rary dance sur­prises you. I al­ready know that I will col­lab­o­rate with some of the res­i­dents af­ter we go our sep­a­rate ways. Re­sources that are ba­sic in Europe — where you can get fund­ing to cover the cost of re­hearsal space or lights — are a lux­ury in In­dia. For the first time in In­dia, I had the lux­ury of be­ing able to con­cen­trate on my work. I had men­tors, space and tech­ni­cians to take care of all stage re­quire­ments,” says res­i­dent Deepak K. Shivaswamy.

Shivaswamy will per­form “ LVOE”, a solo piece that uses the body and space. He elab­o­rates, “ I use head­gear to re­late to the so­ci­ety that sur­rounds me. I am not keen on ex­oti­cis­ing my­self by us­ing an ex­ist­ing aes­thetic, such as In­dian dance, or su­per­im­pos­ing a west­ern style on In­dian move­ment, which is the other ex­treme. I deal with the dy­nam­ics of move­ment, help­ing the body to cre­ate a move­ment score that is trans­lated into per­for­mance.”

Nong­meika­pam Anusha Lall of the Gati Fo­rum says that feed­back from pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the res­i­dency has helped con­sol­i­date its struc­ture. “ Dur­ing the first res­i­dency in 2009, chore­og­ra­phers were as­signed a space and worked on their own from the be­gin­ning. Later, they said that they felt very iso­lated. The spirit of the res­i­dency partly lies in peo­ple com­ing to­gether to share their ex­pe­ri­ences and build a com­mu­nity. This year, we be­gan with a week-long in­ten­sive pro­gramme where the res­i­dents and men­tors lived in one place and par­tic­i­pated in work­shops and dis­cus­sions built around their pro­pos­als and past work. The mu­tual shar­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion was com­plete, be­cause we also shared space and time out­side work. By that time the res­i­dents were ready to em­bark on their in­di­vid­ual pro­cesses,” she re­veals.

Talk­ing about “ process” con­sti­tutes vague ter­ri­tory. How­ever, one can at­tempt to un­der­stand the res­i­dents’ works through the ex­pe­ri­ences and re­al­i­sa­tions fa­cil­i­tated by the res­i­dency, which they are only too ea­ger to share. Mehneer Su­dan, who has a back­ground in con­tem­po­rary and jazz dance, found that the res­i­dency was a per­sonal chal­lenge be­cause she didn’t nor­mally thrust her­self into spaces where she had to ex­plain her choices. She says, “ I have had to con­front my pat­terns of thought – you have to be self-crit­i­cal and con­stantly stand up for the part of your­self that is mak­ing you dance. You have to be clear about your choices; when you are in doubt, oth­ers can read your un­cer­tainty. A lot of your choices are of­ten ques­tions – and you have to ques­tion these, ask­ing your­self whether a move­ment must ex­ist be­cause the piece de­mands it or whether your ego is run­ning riot.”

Su­dan’s work has been in­spired by her en­coun­ters with masseuses. “ There is the ten­sion of let­ting a stranger touch your body in un­fa­mil­iar ways. Is that mo­ment in­ti­mate or me­chan­i­cal? You might want that at­ten­tion and feel the need to be touched. The au­di­ence found the piece sadis­tic; they felt I was ma­nip­u­lat­ing my part­ner’s body. Per­haps I am. I ex­plore move­ment with the theme of the mas­sage in my head; the au­di­ence can take what they want from my piece,” says Su­dan, who finds that the mo­ment of the mas­sage has great dra­matic po­ten­tial.

Theatre per­former and di­rec­tor Ni­ran­jani Iyer, who has worked in France, In­dia and Ethiopia, was happy about the open-minded ap­proach to her work at GSDR. She com­ments, “ Not slot­ting things as dance or theatre is a healthy attitude to have. Ex­plor­ing a dif­fer­ent lan­guage is an ex­per­i­ment, for I am a theatre ac­tor work­ing with move­ment theatre. Tra­di­tional In­dian dance and theatre has al­ways been a mix of natya and nritya, but in con­tem­po­rary work, there is a clear de­mar­ca­tion be­tween dance and theatre. In­creas­ingly, in the West, per­for­mances ex­plore fluid dis­ci­plines where the lines be­tween dance and theatre are blurred. Our men­tors are Maya Kr­ishna Rao, a theatre ac­tor; Anusha Lall is a dancer and Chris Lech­ner has been work­ing with ac­tors for over eight years. It is use­ful to have that di­ver­sity in men­tor­ing.”

Lall be­lieves that the fi­nal week can be a place where chore­og­ra­phers re­con­sider ev­ery­thing they do. “ All this while, the ex­plo­rations were mostly process-ori­ented. There is a feel­ing of want­ing to set­tle down. You want to find the spine of your work and make it safe and pre­sentable. Given that it is a res­i­dency, the chore­og­ra­phers must push them­selves. One burst of ideas can cre­ate spe­cial mo­ments,” she says.

PHOTO: Soumit and Soumita

Mehneer Su­dan per­form­ing In­side Bod­ies, Talk­ing Com­fort

PHOTO: Soumit and Soumita

Deepak Shivaswamy in LVOE

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