Perspectives on community dance in India Celebrating Big Dance by dageernv


the community dance magazine

Autumn 2012

Perspectives on
community dance
in India
Big Dance 2012
Integrating difference
in Higher Education
In this issue
Critical faculties
04 Biggest, boldest, brightest, best
Donald Hutera writes about the summer’s
most ballyhooed dance extravaganzas

Focus on India
06 Dr Sunil Kothari and Ken Bartlett
introduce this vast country and its
multitude of dances and traditions
08 Asserting dance in Indian culture
An overview by Dr Sunil Kothari with                    28
Anusha Subramanyam and Ken Bartlett
10 Darpana’s community theatre
Mallika Sarabhai describes her work in
                                                       From the editor
the arts for social transformation                     South Asian Dance has now been part of the UK dance ecology for a
14 Breaking boundaries Astad Deboo                     significant period of time. As members of the diaspora take a more
has led the field over the last 40 years in            active and visible part in our communal and cultural lives they, their
widening access to dance                               dances and dance influences have become more visible too. If we are
18 Visually impaired dancers in                        to truly develop the richness and diversity of our total dance ecology
Bangalore Dr Suparna Venkatesh talks                   we have to value and embrace a much wider understanding of the
about her work with Articulate Ability to              diversity of our artform and our diverse contributions as artists,
Dr Sunil Kothari                                       teachers and leaders and demonstrate more interest in the common
20 Manipuri Dances Priti Patel describes               wealth of dance than just what we know. In that context this year’s
Manipuri dance and the development                     international focus looks at community dance practices and
of Anjika, her culture in Kolkata                      interventions in India, a country with which we have a rich and
25 Bollywood Dancing Arundhathi
                                                       complex historical relationship and in the 21st century as it develops
Subramaniam reflects on the importance                 its economy and place on the world stage, one which we will have to
of film dance in Indian popular culture                have a rich relationship in the future.
                                                          I am deeply indebted to Foundation Board member Anusha
28 No limits Syed Saluddin Pasha on
                                                       Subramanyam for her immense guidance and wisdom in putting this
how his work with disabled people
                                                       focus together. The issue also celebrates in pictures Big Dance, part
32 Martram – ‘create change’ Sangeeta                  of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and features an article by Jürg Koch
Isvaran on her practice with marginalised              about his approach to inclusive dance practice in Higher Education in
                                                       the USA.
Dance and disabled people                              Ken Bartlett, Creative Director
36 Of ghettos and ivory towers Jürg
Koch discusses integrated dance and                    Foundation for Community Dance
dance in Higher Education                              Please note: Animated is now published in February, June and
Professional practice                                  October to keep you inspired throughout the year.
40 Helping to create reflective
practitioners Anna Leatherdale tells us
about FCD’s brand new online toolkit               PLUS
                                                  Big Dance
                         In the last edition
                                                  in pictures
                         of animated this
                         image was used in
                         a University Campus
                         Suffolk advertisement.
                         They would like to
                         acknowledge the
                         photographer Hayley
                         Ryan for this image.

Cover photo: Kalbelia Dance, Rajathan.
Photo: Vipul Sangoi                 21                                40

Left: Classroom at Kalakshetra, Chennai. Kalakshetra is primer school for performing and visual arts. Centre: Chhau dancers

Asserting dance in Indian culture
An overview by Dr Sunil Kothari with Anusha Subramanyam and Ken Bartlett

Dance and movement have always been accepted as                      Centre, Indian dance received great fillip. With the advent of
part of social occasions, festivals and community                    women from the upper Brahmin class (in the Indian caste
cohesion.                                                            system Brahmin is in the highest caste and consists of
   With its staggering variety, its multiplicity of forms, and       priests and scholars) like Rukmini Devi, Kalanidhi Narayanan,
plural vocabulary of movements, dance in India in its                and others the stigma attached to dance was removed. A
classical, tribal and folk traditions reveals a vast panorama in     climate for the revival of Indian classical dances was
practices and performance.                                           created.
   Under British rule the arts were denied the opportunity to           After achieving independence, in 1953, the government
flourish. The colonial elite looked down on Indian arts in           established three Academies, for Literature, Plastic (Visual)
general and dance in particular.                                     Arts and Performing Arts. The National Academy of Dance,
   With the emergence of the independence movement,                  Drama and Music known as Sangeet Natak Akademi is the
leaders such as the poet Tagore, dance maker Rukmini Devi,           supreme body (equivalent to the Arts Council in the UK) and
reasserted the arts as an expression of culture and identity.        gives grants for preservation and continuing development of
Initially amongst the intellectuals as it underpinned the            the performing arts.
philosophical ethos of Indian culture it eventually spread              It provides several schemes to support artists, their
more widely. And over time Indian arts were re-established,          institutions and performances and provides scholarships.
revitalised, evaluated and restored to their rightful place.         Alongside it, the Ministry of Culture, of the government of
   As time went by a number of individual pioneers emerged           India, gives financial support for the salaries of the staff of
who envisioned and developed a growing infrastructure for            dance centres and offers production grants to companies.
the arts in India. And dance particularly benefited from the         In addition the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR)
establishment of a number of groundbreaking arts centres             under the Ministry of External Affairs builds bridges between
across the country.                                                  countries and under this scheme supports cultural exchange
   With the institutionalisation of the arts including dance at      programmes. There are six regional cultural zones supported
the centres like Shantiniketan, Kerala Kala Mandalam,                by the Ministry of Culture, offering support for various dance
Kalakshetra, Nrityalayam, Uday Shankar’s India Culture               forms. In addition to the support of classical dance they
demonstrating at Spaces in Chennai. Right: Gypsy children performers on the streets of Delhi. All photos: Vipul Sangoi

                                                                        In the multi-layered, multi-complex diverse and
                                                                    vast variety of dances it is not only the government
                                                                       which supports dance, but it is people who wish
                                                                              to dance and celebrate life through dance.

support tribal and folk forms in each.                              powerful programmes of work in participation and
    The corporate sector supports dance by providing a              performance.
percentage of their income through a corporate cultural                Dance has always been used, as in the UK, in the areas
responsibility scheme. Dance companies and dancers seek             of health, education and wider social contexts.
out private donations as part of their fundraising strategies          Community dance is included historically in the large
from individuals and corporate companies. The corporate             umbrella term of tribal, folk and social dances. The Ministry
sector gets tax concessions from the government when they           of Tribal Welfare supports many initiatives in the regions, in
offer financial support to the arts. However taking into            addition religious festivals offer opportunities to geographic
account the scale of India and the scale of need, even from         communities to perform together and celebrate through
all these sources, the financial support available is barely        dance. In urban areas social dances are performed on
adequate.                                                           different New Years of various communities throughout India.
    Dance is taught formally and informally in the school              In the multi-layered, multi-complex diverse and vast
system and offered up to PhD level at universities. However         variety of dances it is not only the government that supports
it is private classes run by gurus and dancers that offer           dance, but it is people who wish to dance and celebrate life
practical training to aspiring dancers.                             through dance.
    Electronic media, films, cinematic dance, YouTube, TV              India has a treatise called Natyashastra, written between
reality shows and dance competitions have had an                    2nd Century BC and 4th Century AD, it says all that one
incredible impact on promoting dance and people’s                   wants to know about dance, but it also admits to changes
participation and freedom of expression.                            and new forms, for dance is a dynamic art and continues to
    Since the government passed the Disability Act in 1995          grow, reflecting the aspirations of people and their world
and a National Policy in 2006 to provide equal opportunities,       views.
the rights of disabled people to participate fully in society
have been recognised.                                               contact Dr Sunil Kothari / Anusha
    Some dancers and dance organisations have begun to              Subramanyam / Ken Bartlett
use dance to empower disabled people and developing       


                                                                     Darshana Jhaveri, leading Manipuri exponent

Manipuri dances
Award-winning choreographer and teacher, Priti Patel, introduces Manipuri dance and
describes the development of Anjika, her school in Kolkata

In Manipur, dance is not just a form of art, but a way of      and Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi, when I was asked to
life. Dance is a medium of expression, which is so closely     teach Manipuri dance to students outside Manipur. This
interwoven with the social fabric of the society that it is    was the start of my school called ‘Anjika’ in Kolkata where
impossible to study one without the other. Manipuri dance      students are taught Manipuri dance in the tradition that has
is believed to be the creation of Gods. In Manipuri, texts     been followed for generations.
date back before 33 A.D., the legend goes that when the           Anjika, as a school, has a dual curriculum. It is a school
Supreme God, Lai Guru Sidaba, created the earth, He            for Manipuri dance and a school for Movement Therapy for
created seven Laibangthous (Gods) and seven Lainuras           children with Cerebral Palsy. I have developed an approach
(Goddesses) and these celestial beings levelled the uneven     where children with a motor coordination disorder are given
surfaces of the earth with their celestial dance. The          movement therapy through the medium of Manipuri dance.
Classical Manipuri dance form has developed and derived           Anjika operates from Kolkata, where besides me, the staff
from the two most popular movement traditions of Manipur,      includes some very skilled young artists, from Manipur. The
Valshnavite Natasankritan by male dancers and Rasalila by      school also imparts formal education and training in the
female dancers.                                                dance form, besides being a resource centre of artists for
   Dance is considered by the Manipuris as a form of           all its performances. The Imphal chapter of Anjika, which
worship, because of which dance holds an extremely             was initially intended to be only a resource centre for artists
revered, sacrosanct status in Manipuri culture. The study of   for shows and performances, has also recently started
Manipuri dance has been imparted over the ages in the          functioning as an informal training centre for young students
‘Guru-shishya parampara’; through a holistic approach,         in Manipur. Anjika also conducts research and
where students take lessons not just in dance but also on      documentation in this dance form and has its own humble
the values of life.                                            library of literature, audio and video cassettes on this form
   I was initiated into the world of dance and at the age of   of art. Anjika has performed in several prestigious dance
12, I started learning dance from eminent Manipuri dance       shows all over the world and has won laurels and accolades
gurus, Guru Bipin Singh and his disciples the Jhaveri          for itself. I have been fortunate to receive several awards in
Sisters.                                                       appreciation of my work and excellence in this dance form.
    My quest in dance made me delve deep into the study           Anjika has not only been invited to lead Manipuri dance in
of the Manipuri dance tradition. I studied the Martial Art     Kolkata but also invited to run a training centre back in
form. Living and working in Kolkata I regularly visited        Manipur in the capital Imphal. This includes a centre for
Manipur to soak myself in its multi-splendored facets and      research, documentation and a media library as well as
beauty of Manipuri dance, living with Manipuri community.      leading performance development in India and beyond.
   A major turning point came in my life when in November
1995, through the efforts of Pandit N. Khelchandra Singh       contact

    Celebrating Big Dance 2012
    Images of the extraordinary people and places
    from the UK's biggest ever celebration of
    dance. As part of the London 2012 Festival,
    Big Dance 2012 saw 3,500 events across
    England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


5    6

18       17   16



             10   11

             12   13


                                                                                                 19         20


Picture credits: 1 North West Link Up, Liverpool. Photo: unknown. 2, 13, 14 and 24 Edinburgh. Photo: Maria Falconer. 3 Schools Pledge, Burdett Coutts Primary School,
London. Photo: Ben Pruchnie. 4 Big Street Dance Day, Middlesbrough Mela. Photo: Richard Kenworthy. 5 Trafalgar Square, London. Photo: Kois Miah. 6 The Readers, David
Rolland Chorégraphies, Cardiff. Photo: Louise Miles-Crust. 7 DanceEast’s Spectacular Dancing Spielgel Tent, Ipswich. Photo: Rachel Cherry. 8 North West Link Up, Liverpool.
Photo: David Munn. 9 Schools Pledge at Burdett Coutts Primary School, London. Photo: Adam Jacobs. 10 and 17 Ready Willing Able Dance Company, Big Dance Bus. Photo:
James O Jenkins. 11 Arlene Phillips, Big Dance Champion and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Big Dance Week Launch, St Pancras International Station, London. Photo: Ben
Pruchnie. 12 DanceEast’s Spectacular Dancing Spielgel Tent, Ipswich. Photo: Rachel Cherry. 15 Big Dance Live, the Bandstand Hexham, Northumberland. Photo: Richard
Kenworthy. 16 Shh… It’s a Secret. East London Dance and English National Ballet, with Andres Gringas’ Flash Mob, Westfields Stratford City. Photo: Rachel Cherry. 18 Dance
and Theatre Cornwall’s Golowie Donsya, Marazion, Cornwall. Photo: Celine Smith. 19 North East Big Dance Week Launch, Newcastle. Photo: Richard Kenworthy. 20 New Art
Club’s Herculean Cabaret, Splash Dance, Nottingham. Photo: David Severn. 21 Big Dance Live, the Bandstand Hexham, Northumberland. Photo: Richard Kenworthy. 22 Big
Dance Week Launch, choreography by Kate Prince, St Pancras International Station, London. Photo: Ben Pruchnie. 23 Three Score Dance Company, Big Dance South East
England. Photo: Elaine Mayson. 25 The Big Tea Dance, Grassmarket, Edinburgh. Photo: Maria Falconer.

22                                                                                 23

                                                                                                  24      25
Bollywood Dancing:
Dance in Hindi films in India
Arundhathi Subramaniam, poet and critic, reflects on the importance of film dance in Indian
popular culture

One may wince at its incongruities,        less manic, less robotic – always            a Western cinematic aesthetic, as
scoff at its sense of overblown            forgetting antiquity, as Voltaire            many do, is, then, to miss the point.
fantasy, roll one’s eyes heavenward        reminded us long ago, is always full            Gradually over the decades the
at its bump-and-grind antics. But the      of eulogies of another more remote           slow-paced languorous solo and duet
fact remains that Indian film dance,       antiquity. Nostalgia, as always, is a        were replaced increasingly by
now better known as Bollywood              great fictionaliser.                         adrenaline-infused numbers – usually
dance, is an integral part of India’s         Thus, dance in Hindi cinema, like         large ensemble pieces. Particularly
collective consciousness.                  cinema itself, has had a colourful and       with surge of action-oriented cinema
    And although like popular artforms,    variegated history, its journey shaped       from the mid-70s onwards, the
it is intended to reflect contemporary     by capricious markets, serendipitous         mandatory lovelorn number was
social values – including the vulgar,      encounters, idiosyncratic forgeries and      increasingly relegated to the
the superficial, and the ephemeral –       re-appropriations, individual talents        background and every second or third
it is truly remarkable how many film       and tastes. The absence of any               song was, and continues to be,
dances remain enshrined in the             comprehensive documentation on               accompanied by fast-paced dances.
cultural memories of Indians.              the subject does not make the matter         Additionally the willing suspension of
    Who can forget, for example, Hema      any easier for anyone who chooses to         disbelief – always a vital requisite in
Malini’s legendary dance on glass          investigate the area. Trends, therefore,     Indian cinema – was liberally extended
smithereens in the film Sholay? One        are difficult to map, and new directions     to allow lovers in rural India to carouse
suspects that the boneless fluidity of     only fuzzily discernible.                    along the snow-kissed Alps and
Prabhudeva in Muqabla, Madhuri                Nonetheless, it would be impossible       breakdance furiously along the sun-
Dixit’s vibrant sensuality in Ek, Do,      to discuss even the potential journeys       drenched beaches of Mauritius,
Teen, Shahrukh Khan’s spirited             and embryonic impulses without some          before returning to their respective
Chhaiyya, Chhaiyya atop a moving           sense of the changing context down           realities – all in the course of a single
train, or Ashwariya Rai’s ethereal         decades.                                     song.
dandiya number Dhol baaje, could              Firstly, it is clear that the song-and-      A significant characteristic of Hindi
well be counted among the golden           dance number is an integral part of          film dance is its artistic syncretism –
moments of Hindi film dance in the         Indian cinema that cannot be wished          an ability to appropriate elements of
future.                                    away. As film historian Rosie Thomas         diverse vocabularies and integrate
    Strangely, despite its unabashedly     elucidates, Western critics and the          them into quintessential film dance
hybrid identity that revels in cultural    Indian middle-class intelligentsia have      chutney. The result of such unabashed
contaminations of all kinds, the           long tended to evaluate Indian cinema        borrowing is rarely a heap of
rhetoric of purity continues to            according to the canons of European          quotations, however. Indeed the end
pervade popular film criticism. Many       and Hollywood filmmaking and                 product is only deemed successful if
commentators continue to speak of          filmmaking practices that it has itself      it creatively integrates and transforms
an age when dance was cleaner, less        rejected. To wonder why Indian               these elements into something that
vulgar, more original, less Westernised,   cinema cannot aspire to the realism of       works within the parameters of            >

cinematic and box-office acceptability.
   Closely allied to its hybrid and
syncretic nature, however, is its
standardisation of the song-and-dance
sequence – a long-term feature of
Indian cinema. Thus the folk dance in
Hindi cinema is, almost by definition,
exotic and folksy, because regional
features have to be ironed out to make
it seem like it could be performed in
almost any hamlet in the country. The
essentialised 'jhatak matak' style,
is now considered to epitomise the
sexy gait of the archetypal Indian
village damsel and may well have
been re-appropriated by various folk
dance traditions as well!
   Since the 1950s choreographers
like Uday Shankar, Gopi Krishna
and those who trained under him,
shaped the approach to dance in
films. Dance in films at this time also
introduced classically trained dancers,
such as Vyjayanthimala, Padmini,
Waheeda Rahman and Asha Parekh
who gave a fillip to this choreographic
   In the post-independence era
Western movement vocabularies
permeated Indian cinema... the impact
of the waltz, rumba, samba, jive, rock
‘n roll, twist and cha-cha-cha were
apparent. Since 1998 dance in Indian
cinema continues to grow slicker,
more glamorous and youth-oriented,
reflective of an affluent consumerist      routines seem to recreate the modern      music-and-dance video is now
post-liberal Indian life-style. The        bourgeois urban aesthetic of the          launched well in advance of the film
upsurge of bhangra-pop, dandiya-jazz,      young and privileged.                     itself.
disco-kathak, even kalari-break               Today there are, on an average,            Moreover, song-and-dance has
dance combinations also reflect            six to eight songs in each Hindi film,    frequently been an aesthetic device to
an ethos of conscious cultural             several of which are accompanied by       transport film lovers and viewers into
hybridisation. The growth of the Indian    frenzied dance routines. Hum Aapke        dreamspace, undefined by socio-
middle class in an era of globalisation,   Hain Kaun boasted of 14 songs, all of     economic realities of time and space.
the boom in international                  which were accompanied by dance           It is possible here for a middle-class
communication networks, and the            sequences. Many lament the growing        small-town heroine to metamorphose
growing markets in the diaspora are,       disjunction between the song-and-         into jiving, disco-savvy, skimpily attired
no doubt, responsible for these            dance sequence and the film plot.         cosmopolitan young woman. It is
changes – many of which are evident        With the impact of television and MTV     equally possible for the young NRI
in Yash Chopra’s Dil to Pagal Hai          in particular, the relative autonomy of   (Non-resident-Indian) heroine to
(1997), for instance, where the dance      this sequence has increased, and the      transform into wide-eyed village lass,
                                                                                     performing a folk dance in the idyllic
A significant characteristic of Hindi film dance is its artistic                     mustard fields of Punjab, with the fluid
                                                                                     ease of a seasoned daughter of the
syncretism – an ability to appropriate elements of diverse
vocabularies and integrate them into quintessential film                                 The impact of the MTV dance video
dance chutney.                                                                       on Hindi cinema of the ‘90s has been
Saroj Khan, Bollywood’s leading choreographer, demonstrating her inimitable style. Photo: Vipul Sangoi

Since 1998 dance in Indian cinema continues to grown slicker,                             revel in defying every definition that
more glamorous and youth-oriented, reflective of an affluent                              one seeks to bestow upon it…
                                                                                          Cultural meteorologists may keep
consumerist post-liberal Indian life-style.
                                                                                          predicting the apocalypse; purists may
                                                                                          still dismiss it as mere running and
much discussed in the media.                 School of Dance in New York and              dancing around trees. But, dance in
Evidence of this is discernible in the       now runs hugely popular jazz ballet          Hindi cinema continues to cavort on
emphasis on sleek and glossy dance           classes in Mumbai with branches              its own whimsical path, blithely
sequences, fast cuts, special effects,       in many other metropolitan cities,           irreverent of dire predictions, and
hip designer apparel, slimmer bodies         was invited to choreograph dance in          never failing to attract its mobs of
in the chorus lines, and of course, the      mainstream movies. It only confirmed         enthralled viewers, as much today as
choreography. Interestingly dance            that a new phase in Hindi film               ever before.
choreographers like Saroj Khan, Farah        dance has, indeed, opened. Davar
Khan and Shiamak Davar are familiar          lays emphasis on precision,                  contact
names to the general audiences in            coordination, and above all, fit and or
India today and have acquired                agile bodies.                      
celebrity status.                               Dance in Hindi films today remains,
   A new chapter in Hindi cinema and         therefore, the irrepressibly parodic         Abbreviated from an original article
the cinema viewed by the Indian              movement compound that it always             from New Directions In Indian Dance,
diaspora opened when Shiamak                 was. Dynamic, richly diverse, and            edited by Dr Sunil Kothari, with
Daver, who trained at the Pineapple          flagrantly inconsistent, it seems to         permission of Marg Publication.


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