Text by Jehan, Photos by Shakthi

DAY 2, INDIA TRIP 1

It’s Tuesday 13th December. We’re all up early. I’m not sure what time zone I was on but the humid Bangalore air seemed strangely familiar and comforting. We relished our first meal together with sugary sweet coffee and idly wada piled on our plate. And then Shakthi asked “So dude…what’s the plan?”…

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Bangalore. It’s cool city with a lot of students and highly skilled professional workers. Add to that, it’s a city which is inherently connected into the rest of the world with nearly 250,000 people working in call centres. India by day, America by night: these guys speak more languages than you have fingers, and the well trained ones will speak languages like English in regional dialects and with accents specific to regions. My point is that it’s a place with a high density of young, intelligent and globally engaged people.

You can start to trace our journey via this map…Bangalore, Karnataka, India

All this makes it a perfect location for India’s most avant garde dance company Attakkalari – one which is toured five countries in 2012 as well as managing their own domestic series. They also produce the incredible Attakkalari Biennial Festival which showcases the best contemporary and mixed media performance practice around the world. One of the things I like best about Attakkalari is their ability to train and mentor young dancers and bring them seamlessly into the fold of the senior dance repertory or alternatively into major choreographic careers in Bollywood. The dancers think critically about how they move as individuals and as a group. It’s not a unique way of working/learning, but it certainly borrows from the best practice around the world. They gel as an ensemble, and they flourish as individuals.

For me it was a dream-come-true. The reality of being a producer-director on the floor of India’s top contemporary dance company was difficult to cope with. The thousands of hours of planning, negotiating and most importantly financing had paid off. It all seemed a bit too much when the dancers decided to show off individual routines they had developed as part of their workshopping of themes. They developed choreography through “images”. A series of still positions which have particular expression for the theme (sometimes literal expressions of water, others emotional expressions of what they’d read in online journals I’d sent). These images could then be linked through motion to create a short choreography. This additive process has remarkable functionality because it often tests the limits of the dancer’s own physical prowess but it also means that when the dancers get together for duets or trios of improvisations, there are moments of difference (or organised chaos) which creates tension leading to brief and very beautiful moments of unison and release. How privileged I was to watch the dancers do their thing.

I’ve put some photos of a brilliant conversation I had over several hours with Leah about just exactly what sound we were going to try and capture and how we were going to structure our amorphous journey into the heart of the Narmada.

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