CHOREOGRAPHY IN THE INDIAN CONTEXT-Part 3
Very often I have heard in the Western world that the Indian dance carries its past, which is no longer relevant into the present. One cannot evaluate the Indian classical dance through western eyes. Our traditions and techniques are too deep rooted to be ignored.
I have to admit here that I depend on the Kathak technique for my creative work. Luckily, I am for ever discovering movements in the Kathak format, which have for long been forgotten by solo dancers. In their impulse to gain instant popularity they have concentrated only on what brings an instant response from the audiences. To this day I have not had to look outside the Kathak technique for movements and forms.
My very first attempt at choreography was Dhabkar, which means ” Pulse “. Sitting on the floor of an empty room one is contemplating and searching for choice of a theme. I am listening for sound and a beat to help me and that comes from my heart, which is beating heavily, but the pulse is calm and more assuring. I want to search for the pulse of Kathak. This gave rise to ” Dhabkar ” wherein the Kathak form pulsates in its various tempos of rhythm.
I also experimented with the extension of movement in this piece. One single movement passed from one dancer to another gives the impression of a single movement in an extended form. At times, I did the opposite and broke a pattern of movements into fragments, each performed by a different dancer. The result was thrilling. Success provides an incentive to carry further your beliefs.
The music of ‘Dhabkar’ was also quite unique in the sense that it played with the notion of speed and time. When the music was at a fast tempo, the dancers did the opposite and vice versa. The experimentation in ‘Dhabkar’ was quite new at the time when first performed in 1973.
I have discovered through my long association with dance that the most important thing for a dancer / choreographer is to keep your senses intact and alert. One misses so much of what is going on around you if you do not see or do not hear or take in the fragrance or taste the complexities or feel the different texture of life. Only when you have discovered the space around you in which you exist can you discover the space within you, which is as infinite as the space outside. One has to look within for sources. Sources are extremely important to choreography. There is an endless store of sources within all of us; we just have to know how to tap them.
Choreographer must go beyond simply dance design, meaning you must pour your life into your work to make it come alive. I have spent much of my efforts connecting my work with my life experiences and not allowing one to become isolated from the other. Too often, I find that we compartmentalize our lives and our abilities. It is a matter of applying the study of one discipline to another area of your existence.
One must get down to making those bridges! ‘Setu’, (Bridge), I focused on this idea of composing a dance number on the bridges in one’s life, we are in constant need of them. However, I added an element of blindness to the character because we don’t see the bridges when we cross them. It is only when we look back that we see the bridge and the water flowing underneath it.