World Dance Day particular: The problem of being a up to date dancer in India

Some time in the past, I encountered a be aware on up to date dance offered by ChatGPT. It mentioned, whereas historically up to date dance may very well be referred to an assortment of Western strategies, it’s now a way for addressing present socio-political-cultural points, reflecting the variety of up to date society by way of inclusion of various varieties, content material, and identities. Although not off-the-mark, I discovered the definition reductive, leaning in direction of a temporal description whereas solely crediting the West for its technical root. It emphasised the dearth of contextualisation of contemporaneity current inside the dance neighborhood in India.

It’s best to confess that there isn’t a singular definition of this style. Nevertheless, we are able to certainly agree upon a couple of traits corresponding to plurality, range and a multiplicity of varieties and aesthetics. To those, I wish to add what I strongly determine with up to date dance — vital pondering. These traits make it tough to suit this style into an ‘organised sector’ and even tougher for a up to date practitioner to concretely contextualise her work in historical past.

Notable adjustments

From Kathak-turned-contemporary dancer and choreographer  Daksha Seth’s work ‘Sari’

From Kathak-turned-contemporary dancer and choreographer Daksha Seth’s work ‘Sari’
| Photograph Credit score:
Particular Association

Dance students have studied two vital moments of change within the Indian fashionable/up to date dance context, the place classicism has been interrogated to get replaced by new politics in addition to kind. The primary section, known as ‘Indian fashionable dance’, was led by Rabindranath Tagore, and ended as a thriving course of maybe with Uday Shankar (1900-1980). This college of observe freely and brazenly adopted heterogenous dance kinds from each East and West and remained open to the concept of modifying previous traditions. The second section which heralded the usage of the time period ‘Indian up to date dance’ started within the Nineteen Eighties with the arrival of Chandralekha, in Chennai, and others together with Kumudini Lakhia, Daksha Seth, Maya Krishna Rao, Astad Deboo and Manjusri Chaki Sircar (on no account is that this checklist exhaustive) in numerous components of the nation. These choreographers had a foundational coaching in a number of classical varieties. Their work was marked by a acutely aware have to depart from custom, but not in a means that mimicked up to date dance within the West. The post-colonial have to outline ‘contemporaneity’ in their very own phrases by their very own varieties was pressing amongst them.

Forging new frontiers

Contemporary dancer and choreographer Jayachandran Palazhy at the Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts (ACMA) in Bangalore

Up to date dancer and choreographer Jayachandran Palazhy on the Attakkalari Centre for Motion Arts (ACMA) in Bangalore
| Photograph Credit score:
Okay. Murali Kumar

Publish-’90s, dancers corresponding to Jayachandran Palazhy, Anusha Lal and Mandeep Raikhy returned to India after a number of years of coaching in British dance faculties. By Attakkalari and Gati Dance Discussion board, they facilitated entry to up to date dance for these with little or no coaching in Indian classical varieties. The hierarchy of classically skilled dancers was damaged. Dancers skilled in in style Western varieties, movie dance, yoga or martial arts enrolled for up to date dance programs and pretty quickly grew to become dance-makers themselves. Whereas this was a much-welcome intervention on the time, on this have to consistently outline, create pedagogy and institutionalise, one began to see a renewed standardisation. ‘Up to date dance’ grew to become yet one more class, stuffed with recognisable tropes and cliches moderately than politic. There has remained, nonetheless, a presence of a small counterculture of transferring away from the ready-made aesthetic in an effort to forge new performative modalities — typically in course of, tentative, asking questions moderately than hurrying to offer solutions. By such works, contemporaneity turns into not simply the id of the ‘dance product’, however a whole philosophy and demanding course of.

Area for brand new concepts

For the previous 12 years the collective I work with — Basement 21, has tried to create area and platforms corresponding to March Dance pageant to nurture these conversations round course of, perpetually prepared to reframe the ‘up to date’ for ourselves and our viewers. However an pressing lack stays for various pedagogies that may doubtlessly bridge the hole between concept and observe, past-present, East-West, in a productive, moderately than binary method.

Padmini Chettur

Padmini Chettur
| Photograph Credit score:

These pedagogies to deal with the double lack of a concrete definition of up to date dance and of its critically documented historical past ought to be complementary to the choreographic practices. Such separation and integration of concept and observe are well-tested strategies in academia particularly for experimental/inventive disciplines. However in India, the onus of ‘educating’ dancers falls solely on the choreographers . Alternatively, the accountability falls on the dancers, who are sometimes looking out with out path, sources and peer discussions. This, in my view, is as a lot a problem for practitioners as the opposite well-discussed points corresponding to lack of funding or rehearsal/efficiency areas.

Want for correct coaching

Up to date dance is taught in India both as a mode in a dance institute or by choreographic processes shared with dancers. For quite a few logistical causes, these coaching moments are neither of an extended sufficient period nor rigorous sufficient to offer instruments enabling dancers to create. As a instructor and a co-curator of March Dance pageant that now affords a grant to rising choreographers, I encounter this typically that many younger dance-makers are oblivious to even the essential formal and technical choreographic developments within the final hundred years, and due to this fact are scuffling with dated queries or resorting to imitating current works knowingly or unknowingly. For up to date dance to develop right into a research-based investigation moderately than a product-oriented reinvention of the wheel, the pedagogy round it should embody the complicated colonial-post colonial-modern-postmodern histories and practices which have preceded us.

Chandralekha watching her dancers do ‘Namaskar’ on the beach, 1992

Chandralekha watching her dancers do ‘Namaskar’ on the seashore, 1992
| Photograph Credit score:

In my try and demystify up to date dance, let me add a couple of phrases defending the accusation of abstraction and exclusivity that up to date practitioners typically encounter. I consider {that a} inventive kind should thrive inside debates. A performer, whether or not narrating a narrative or not, continues to be in dialogue with the viewers. He/she just isn’t essentially the showrunner however is weak in her effort to speak. Within the phrases of German dancer Susanna Linke, “Dance is strolling on the sting of the stage, not safely within the centre.”

At a time when the necessity for conversations round plurality and inclusivity are on the forefront of all socio-political debate and the bastions of unchanging custom appear to face on contested and shaky terrain — now greater than ever, there’s a want for up to date dance to turn into a observe of response and resistance. For this we should take into account strengthening its basis. If not, we’ll proceed to see our bodies solely able to aspiration, by no means in full possession of their very own contemporaneity.

The writers are up to date dancers and part of the collective, Basement 21. 

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