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Pulse south asian music and dance

WINTER 2016 - #135

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INSIDE Reviews AnoushkaShankar • Aruna Sairam & Jayanthi Kumaresh Darbar Festival • Nilima Devi & Anusha Subramanyam • Mithila Sarma • Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company • SOAS Indian Dance Society • Magdalen Gorringe and Dancers


sound in print

Shadow Casters Lighting for Dance

Breathing Light A Dancer’s Perspective No Body

Michael Hulls and Lucy Carter

Young Pulse Fitness and ISTD Exams kadam

connecting asian dance and music communities

Mian Mohammad Baksh, Saif-ul-Malook, quoted in The Rose and the Bulbul

Season’s Greetings and best wishes for the New Year from the Pulse team

Vidya Patel, Rang Manch Pravesh under Guru Sujata Banerjee | PHOTO: simon richarson

Kindle the lamp of my Love and enlighten my heart, Let the flame of the candle be such As to spread its light across the world

Pulse Winter 2016 — Issue 135 ISSN 1476-6019 Published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music c/o The Carnival Centre 3 St Mary’s Road, Luton LU1 3JA +44 7905 268887


135 /Contents 2 Editorial/News 5 Listings

Editorial Team Commissioning Editor Sanjeevini Dutta


Shadow Casters Ian Abbott elicits perspectives on creative collaborations between choreographers and lighting designers. He speaks to Subathra Subramaniam and Aideen Malone, Aditi Mangaldas and Fabiana Piccioli, Seeta Patel and Guy Hoare, and Hemabharathy Palani.


Breathing Light Into Dance – A Dancer’s Perspective Kali Chandrasegaram gives insights into how, properly lit, the dancer on stage can become a magical being.


Light Takes The Lead – Dance writer Sanjoy Roy found that experiencing No Body by lighting designers Michael Hulls and Lucy Carter means he will now take more notice of lighting.


Young Pulse Fitness – What does it have to do with South Asian dance forms? Claire Farmer and Seema de Jorge-Chopra on how dance science can help dancers perform to their peak potential.

Assistant Editor Gopa Roy Editorial and Marketing Assistant Parbati Jill Chaudhury


Design Art Director Pritpal Ajimal Photography Director Simon Richardson Subscriptions, Advertising & Info Contacts Disclaimer Pulse is published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music. Kadam are a part of SADA (South Asian Dance Alliance). No part of the magazine may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. Copyright of the text is shared with its authors. Copyright of the photographs/images reside with contributing photographers/ artists. All other rights reserved. The views/opinions expressed in Pulse are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the editor or publisher. While reasonable effort has been made to avoid errors, no liability will be accepted for any that may have inadvertently occurred.

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Annual subscription £32 with free delivery Cheques payable to Kadam, c/o The Carnival Centre 3 St Mary’s Road, Luton LU1 3JA. For online subscriptions and payments please visit

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Exams On The Menu – Tips from experienced exam-taker Parbati Chaudhury.


Reviews – CD Review Land of Gold (Anoushka Shankar)


Music Performance Aruna Sairam & Jayanthi Kumaresh (Darbar Festival)


Dance Performance Plurality of Abhinaya (Nilima Devi & Anusha Subramanyam) Subduction Zone (Mithila Sarma) Inter_rupted (Aditi Mangaldas Company) An East Wind (SOAS Indian Dance Society) If I Could Reach Home (Magdalen Gorringe & Dancers)

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connecting asian dance and music communities

Pulse serves the arts sector by recording, critiquing, profiling and archiving South Asian dance and music in the UK through Pulse magazine and the website: The magazine relies solely on income from subscriptions, advertising and donations. All donations welcome through our website Kadam forms part of the SADA Alliance

14 Contents Page Photo Credits FC Unkindest Cut Sadhana Dance | Photo: Kathy Hinds 3 Cassiopeia A in Many Colours | Photo: Courtesy Smithsonian Institution 6 Twine and Trikonanga | Photo: Richa Bhavanam 10 Supriya Nagarajan | Photo: Duncan Lomax 12 Courtesy Akademi | Photo: Simon Richardson 14 No Body Michael Hulls | Photo: Chantal Guevara 20 Aruna Sairam | Photo: Arnhel De Serra 23 Inter_rupted Aditi Mangaldas Company | Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou



Letter from the Editor Dear Reader Lighting affects everything light falls upon. How you see what you see, how you feel about it... Jean Rosenthal. It is such an appropriate time of year to be working on the theme of stage lighting, as the evenings lengthen and we bring out the candles or fairy lights of the Christmas tree to create that dance of the light and shadows that has us enthralled. It creates that alternative reality that we inhabit when watching a play or a movie. The master choreographers have always understood the importance of lighting to add impact and drama: whether Uday Shankar (1900‒1977), the founder of modern Indian dance, who first trained as a visual artist and created a whole show with giant shadow puppets, or kathak choreographer Kumudini Lahkia who insisted on formal lighting design decades before it became a common practice, lighting is a handmaiden to dance. In an art form which is about the body in movement and in stillness, modelling the body with light and shadows is of the essence. Strong lights from the front can deaden the experience. As Fabiana Piccioli says in her interview with Ian Abbott, “I am allergic to front lights.” I was excited to read that side lights, or ‘booms’ as they are known in the trade, were invented by a female theatre lighting pioneer, Jean Rosenthal (1912‒1969) from New York, who had worked with such greats as director Orson Welles and lit Broadway hits such as Fiddler on the Roof, but it was her role of lighting for Martha Graham that was her most cherished assignment. The arts of painting, photography and cinema converge on the centrality of lighting. One is drawn to the canvases of seventeenth-century artist Caravaggio, who created heavy shadow so that the backgrounds of the canvases are black, throwing the illuminated subjects into stark contrast. Some 300 years later, Edward Hopper’s cityscapes of latenight bars with gleaming copper counters or the enduring image 2 PULSE WINTER 2016

of an illuminated petrol station in the middle of nowhere play to emotions of mystery, things half-understood, poised between dream and reality. In dance, we have the partnership of choreographer Russell Maliphant and lighting designer Michael Hulls, who pushed the boundaries of dancing with light to the level of an art form in itself (catch Conceal: Reveal trailer on YouTube). The edging of limbs with brushes of light creates liquid calligraphy, while the identity of the dancer becomes irrelevant. Hence it’s not about seeing the dancer’s face but about conveying the sensation of the movement. Kali Chandrasegaram echoes this sentiment in his piece and Seeta Patel remarks how the geometry of the architecture takes precedence over the dancer’s face in the nritta sections of her last touring solo Margam. I want to acknowledge Anand Bhatt who first suggested the idea of devoting an issue to lighting. I am delighted that we have a heart-stopping image taken at Aakash Odedra’s performance of Murmur at Warwick Arts Centre. I also want to mention Aakash’s solo Cut, choreographed by Russell Maliphant and lit by Michael Hull, which gave us such defining moments of beauty. I would like to leave you with one of Aakash’s images from Cut.

Aakash Odedra | Photo: Pippa Dodds

Happy Christmas and all good wishes for 2017. Sanjeevini.

Looking Ahead From SJDC Shobana Jeyasingh is to be a cross-category judge for the upcoming BBC Young Dancer 2017. Alongside this her Dance Company has a full schedule with a major tour, performances and a work-in-progress. Material Men redux This politically-nuanced and virtuoso dance work, Material Men redux, is a new full-length version of 2015’s Material Men. The shared history and personal stories of virtuoso dancers Sooraj Subramaniam and Shailesh Bahoran (based in Belgium and The Netherlands respectively) are woven into powerful dance and potent imagery. The styles of these two dazzling performers of

Material Men | Photo: Jane Hobson

the Indian diaspora could not be more different – bharatanatyam and hip-hop – but the men share a history rooted in the dark realities of colonial migration and plantation labour. As Shobana Jeyasingh says: “Indentured labour resulted in the migration of over 3 million Indians to provide cheap labour (known derogatively as ‘coolies’) for the European powers in plantations across the globe. It was abolished in 1917.” Material Men redux is a dynamic and moving exploration of the violence of loss and the creation of new ways of belonging. The work includes new choreography and a film collage of archive footage and images by Simon Daw. The commissioned score by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin is played live on stage by the Smith Quartet with additional sound design by Leafcutter John. World première: Lakeside, Nottingham, 7 February; touring in Ipswich, Eastleigh, Birmingham, Glasgow, London (The Place, 28 & 29 April). Bayadère – Ninth Life Excerpts from this work (which

toured in 2015), illuminating the West’s fascination with the myth of the Orient, will be presented as part of Sampled at Sadler’s Wells on 4 February and The Lowry, Salford on 24 & 25 February. Curator’s Talk & Études at Rodin & Dance The exhibition Rodin & Dance at the Courtauld Gallery in London explores Auguste Rodin’s fascination with dance and bodies captured in acrobatic poses. It focuses on a series of small-scale experimental sculptures known as the Mouvement de Danse (Dance Movement), which were unknown outside Rodin’s close circle (although Stravinsky and Diaghilev were taken to see them). These are shown together with a selection of photographs, drawings and archival material connected with Rodin’s encounters in the early 1900s with new forms of dance, including dancers visiting from Cambodia as well as acrobats and music hall performers. Shobana Jeyasingh has choreographed a piece, Étude, in response to the exhibition. This is performed by Noora Kela, following the talk by curator Alexandra Gerstein, in the space alongside the central cabinet, with the sculptures before the spectators and the drawings and moulds for casts around them. Kela, in a plain beige leotard (and without music, so the focus is on the body and how it moves),

Cambodian dancer | Photo: Musée Rodin

embodies with a profound understanding the processes and preoccupations of the works. The movement of just one arm and one leg suggest the separated cast limbs that Rodin took from the moulds and combined to form into the figures on display; her subtle changes of position allude to the way Rodin drew, observing a dancer, scarcely looking at the page, capturing


the sense of movement in shifting lines. She tracks across the floor while maintaining a pose, altering it slightly, suggesting Rodin’s practice of tracing his drawings and refining and changing them. The dancer becomes the acrobat (the model had been Alda Moreno, an acrobat with an extraordinarily supple back); she becomes a Cambodian dancer with her outstretched arms, but always there is a consciousness of the means by which the body achieves these shapes, of the effort required, just as Rodin’s sculptures are left with the marks of their production and not smoothed to perfection. The performance thus articulates Rodin’s intense observation of the artist’s body and how it moved, melded with the process of creating the works. The imaginative response of the dancer to these static two- and threedimensional representations of dancer or acrobat, or fragments of them, is an illuminating validation of the presence of dance in an exhibition space. The exhibition opened in October and continues until 22 January (daily, 10am–6pm) and there will be a further Curator’s Talk and performance on Wednesday, 4 January, 5‒5.45pm. Gopa Roy Contagion The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and the brilliant but tragic genius of Viennese artist Egon Schiele recently provided Shobana Jeyasingh Dance with the startingpoints for two weeks of research and development, supported by 14‒18 NOW, the UK’s arts

Alchemy dates announced 19‒29 May 2017 The Alchemy Festival at London’s Southbank Centre aims to showcase cultural connections between the UK and South Asia, focusing on contemporary practice. It has become an annual fixture in the capital’s cultural

the audience in a whole new experience of raw Qawwali sounds. Simi Obra, Sampad Further information and booking details:

BBC Young Dancer

The BBC Young Dancer competition, which started in 2015 and now alternates with its partner series BBC Young Qawwali Shrine Project Musician, has done more to make dance inclusive than People from a range of generations any other initiative. Watching and backgrounds recently took the four categories of Street, part in workshops in Birmingham Contemporary, Ballet and South led by artist Tasawar Bashir to Asian is an education for all with inform the next phase of the an interest in dance. The finals pioneering ‘Qawwali Shrine’ will take place on 22 April 2017 at Sadler’s Wells in London. The category finals will be held from 21 to 24 January at Salford Quays (21 January, Street; 22, Ballet; 23, South Asian; and 24, Contemporary).

Ravi Shankar and Sukanya Shankar Photo: Southbank Centre

diary, capable of filling out the 1,800-seater Royal Festival Hall with the big names among South Asian artists. For its 2017 programme, tickets have already gone on sale for five headline shows including Ravi Shankar’s posthumous and only opera Sukanya dedicated to his wife and bearing her name. The opera brings the classical music of India in dialogue with Western classical traditions, a challenge which conductor and long-time associate of Panditji, David Murphy, has taken on with relish. The creative team includes daughter Anoushka Shankar, soprano Susanna Burrell, choreographer and dancer Aakash Odedra and librettist Amit Chaudhuri. Other musical treats at Alchemy are the great female Sufi vocalist Abida Praveen and Bollywood star duo Vishal and Shekhar.

Qawwali Supremos In 2017 it will have been twenty years since the death of the ‘Shahenshah-e-Qawwali’ (King

Contagion | Photo: SJDC

programme for the First World War centenary. Shobana Jeyasingh plans to create a major new site-specific piece in autumn 2018 (the working title is Contagion), exploring the connections between art, virology and warfare in 1918.

of Kings of Qawwali) Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. His nephews Rizwan and Muazzam carry the legacy of their family’s six-centuries-old Sufi devotional tradition and will be touring the UK in the spring. Audiences in Luton, Bristol, Leeds, Gateshead, London, Blackburn, Birmingham and Leicester can look forward to experiencing this hypnotic and transcendent music.

Photo: Asian Art Agency

Glancing Back Illicit Worlds of Indian Dance

Cassiopeia A in Many Colours Photo: Courtesy Smithsonian Institution

project. The project aims to map emotional responses to Qawwali music and explore whether states of spiritual enlightenment such as Rasa, Fana or ‘the sublime’ can be experienced, measured and artistically represented through new technology. Producer Harmeet Chagger-Khan says: “The workshops opened up some lively and informative debates and it was really fascinating to follow the personal thought processes and intense, complex emotions of the participants as they responded to the music.” The Qawwali Shrine pilot continues with an event on 26 January 2017 at mac birmingham featuring a sonic exploration of Qawwali. Using technology from Birmingham Electro-Acoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST), melodic fragments of Qawwali will be reworked, layered, stretched and disembodied creating a compelling 360-degree soundscape that will immerse

The performance, produced by Akademi and curated by the academic Anna Morcom who has published a book by the same title, gathered under its wing the dances of the courtesans, the tawaifs; the transgendered and crossdressers; the bar dancers and the Bollywood wannabes. The show at the Rich Mix received a four-star rating from Luke Jennings of the Guardian/Observer, and his keen critic’s eye identified ‘technical

Raheem Mir | Photo: VipulSangoi

dancing of a very high order’. He also picked out Raheem Mir’s rendition of Umrao Jaan as the star performance of the evening. Along with the actual WINTER 2016 PULSE 3


of rhythmically-challenging teental compositions. Ashwini Kalsekar shone with sharpness and composure in her trio of abhinaya solos, Arghya meaning ‘offering’, depicting Shiva, Durga and Krishna. The final piece, Together We Can, by the senior students of SBDC combined kathak and the spoken word to address the staggering climate change crisis. The piece was strongest in its moments of quiet as the dancers drew close, sometimes in a natural gather with emotive facial gestures or at other times resembling a swaying mollusc shell-like structure seeking protection. It was clear that the choreographer had instilled a genuine sense of concern in the performers. Jaina Modasia opened the second evening with energy and clarity with a charming presentation in teental, closing with a touching piece on Yashoda and her beloved baby Krishna, demonstrating an impressive sense of mime. The Barcelona Kathak Project presented a Vibrancy and passion ‒ tarana in raga hamsadwani choreographed by Fasih-urHemantika Festival Rehman, with further instruction Hemantika can be translated to from Shreyashee Nag. The mean the ‘cold season’, but as accomplished ensemble, smartly one ascended the split levels of dressed in white and gold Artsdepot, passing the lovinglyangarka, glided across the stage decorated leaves and other and were seemingly floating seasonal fragments from nature throughout – a hallmark of along the corridors, the reception Fasihji’s style and composition. of animated chatter among Ganga was the closing piece of the audience members (and the evening and festival, using welcoming helpers) for Sujata narrative and abstraction to relay Banerjee Dance Company’s two- the story of the great river and day festival was far from chilly. its cultural significance, boasting The first evening more than eighty performers of performances, featuring all ages and levels from SBDC international performers and including Sujata Banerjee herself. home-grown talent, opened Now the festival may have been with the dynamic Saberi Mishra, called Hemantika, suggestive of asserting sound command over a winding-down in nature, but

performances, the commentary given by Anna Morcom was very enlightening. She gave a broad sweep of the 200 years of the social and political changes within classical and popular dance. In the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, one had to choose between marriage and dance, and one had to be born into the hereditary class of tawaifs (courtesans) or devadasis (temple dancers) and be economically dependent on the patron. Now, dancers from wealthy families in the motherland are independent professionals. However, economic pressures in India still force many hereditary performing artists into a life of prostitution. The evening was an eyeopener: even though we know that the origins of Indian dance are from the practice of temple dancers, seldom do we as a dance sector sit back to appreciate the extraordinary social changes that have made professional dance a career choice.

Milapfest Awards One of the young artists to be chosen for a Milapfest National

Kuchipudi arrives at the Bhavan

Jasdeep Singh Degun | Photo: Milapfest

laya-kari as she interacted comfortably with the live accompaniment in a display 4 PULSE WINTER 2016

for SBDC it seems that dance, ambition and inclusivity are clearly in full bloom.

The dance-drama art of kuchipudi originated in the village of Kuchipudi in the modern state of Andhra Pradesh, where it is still performed and taught. A cousin of bharatanatyam, it distinguishes

Arts Award this year, the Yuva Sangeet Ratna (Young Musician), was Jasdeep Singh Degun. The Bridge, his concerto for sitar and Western string ensemble, received its première at Leeds this month (look out for the Pulse review). It is unusual to

Arunima Kumar | Photo: Simon Richardson

Jasprit Rajbans | Photo: Milapfest

find female tabla players, but Jasprit Rajbans won Tarang Musician of the Year. Vocalist Aditi Subramaniam was awarded the Samyo/Sabrang Musician of the Year. Bharatanatyam dancer and director of Kalasagara UK Usha Raghavan received the Acharya Ratna Nritya

Aditi Subramaniam | Photo: Milapfest Photo: Simon Richardson

Prasad was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations to all of them!

(Dance), while the Acharya Ratna Sangeet (Music) went to Shivatharini Sahathevan. Teacher and composer Manorama

itself with a flow, dynamism and lightness of foot, incorporating leaps. The dramatic element of storytelling is also very prominent as kuchipudi has roots in dance-drama. The popularity of this form has been increasing in India and abroad, with skilled practitioners who are raising its profile and making it accessible to new audiences. Among these is performer, choreographer and teacher Arunima Kumar, artistic director of Arunima Kumar Dance Company. Recent performances attended by the London Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s director Dr Nandakumara prompted him to invite Arunima to enhance the Bhavan’s already vibrant dance department with the introduction of weekly classes in kuchipudi. There has been significant interest in the classes (beginners to advanced), which began in November. Arunima is the recipient of several awards including the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskaar awarded by Sangeet Natak Akademi (India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama) to young artists who demonstrate excellence in their form, the only dancer in the UK to have this honour. Further information:


Nahid Siddiqui illuminates Faiza Butt Exhibition Exploring the themes and ideas from Faiza Butt’s touring exhibition Paracosm, world-renowned kathak dancer Nahid Siddiqui and acclaimed poet Avaes Mohammad gave a multi-dimensional experience to audiences at Leicester’s Attenborough Arts. New poems responded to the works: mythic tales of love, layers of metaphor and imagery were nuanced with repetition and eloquence. Nahid Siddiqui developed the ideas of love and common humanity further in her presentation. Musicians Hassan

performative body and how we value excellence in performance as we get older.

Akademi Choreography award winners Bharatanatyam dancer/ choreographer Seeta Patel is awarded a group commission worth £5,000 and four dancers each receive £2,000 for creating solos: Manuela Benini, Parbati Chaudhury, Raheem Mir and Shivaangee Agrawal. The scheme of developing choreographic skills among South Asian dancers is in the last phase of a three-year programme supported by the Esmée Fairbairn foundation. Previously there were two strands for classical and contemporary works, but for the 2017 commissions the CHOREOGATA and UTKARSH categories were merged to take applications from the entire Indian dance canon. Pulse looks forward to the new works that will be created under this scheme and congratulates all the winners.

Lullaby Photo: Kaviraj Dhandiya

Mohyeddin (tabla and percussion) and Mohammed Reza Saadi (ney) lifted Nahidji’s dance to mystical heights. Monia Acciari, Research Fellow at De Montfort University, facilitated a short Q&A that concluded the evening by underlining the importance of artists understanding their heritage but not being limited by it.

Lullaby: A Sonic Cradle is an intriguing project that creates soundscapes of lullabies and night sounds. It has been developed by Supriya Nagarajan, Carnatic vocalist, and Duncan Chapman, sound artist. The


Seminar Britain’s Anglo-Indians: The Invisibility of Assimilation: Rochelle Almeida SOAS, London migrationdiaspora


Dance Katharkama Kuravanji – Bharatanatyam Dance Drama: Presented by Guru Prakash Yadagudde Bhavan Centre, London

Seminar Outside caste? The enclosure of caste and claims to castelessness in India and the UK: David Mosse SOAS, London


Music Carnatic Vocal Concert: Sanjay Subramanyam Bhavan Centre, London


Mela GemArts Mini Mela Central Library, Gateshead


Music Transmission Presents / After Hours Presents: Xenia Pestova and Shawn Mativetsky St Catherine’s Church, Hatcham, London


Dance/Lecture Beyond the Emotive Literature: Transforming Medieval Indian Literature Into Dance: Menaka PP Bora & Camillo Formigatti Weston Library Lecture Theatre, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford

Music Bernhard Schimpelsberger Rich Mix, London Music Avartan: Rekesh Chauhan, Alok Verma, John Garner Nehru Centre, London 15

Theatre Sari: The Whole Five Yards: Preethi Nair Tristan Bates Theatre, London


Dance/Music/Panel Discussion Say No To Body Shaming, Inspiring Indian Women Nehru Centre, London

Till 17 Dec

Exhibition Whose Sari Now?: Rani Moorthy Theatre Royal Stratford East, London

Till 31 Dec

Exhibition Keep The Home Fires Burning & Mother & Child: Scott King The Hat Factory, Luton

Till 1 Jan 2017

Exhibition Journey To Justice Rich Mix, London

Till 15 Jan 2017

Exhibition Power And Protection: Islamic Art And The Supernatural Ashmolean, Oxford

Till March 2017

Exhibition Idris Khan Whitworth Gallery, Manchester


Creative Aging Bisakha Sarker was invited by Dance Umbrella 2016 to join a panel of distinguished artists and academics for a discussion titled Creative Aging Centre Stage. The discussion was part of the contextual events for the DU16 show Use My Body While It’s Still Young from Norwegian choreographer Hege Haagenrud. It was chaired by director and dramaturg Peggy Olislaegers, and other panel members were choreographer and performer Liz Aggis, Namron and neuroscientist Dr Daniel Glaser. The discussion was focused on the visibility of older bodies in culture and wider society, with particular reference to the


Touring Dance 7 Feb - Material Men: 29 Apr Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Nottingham, Ipswich, Eastleigh, Birmingham, Glasgow, London



Music Karaj Collective Live: Pouya Mahmoodi, Saleh Zarei, Ali Nourbakhsh Asia House, London


Music Transmission Presents / After Hours Presents: Xenia Pestova and Shawn Mativetsky Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham


Film Iconic 70 – Memories Beyond Borders: 19th London Asian Film Festival Various Venues, London

919 Jun

Exhibition Splendours Of The Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-76 Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford


Dance/Music/Spoken Word Kala Samarpan Kala Sangam, Bradford


Music Voice Of The Violin: Shreya Devnath Seven Arts, Leeds


Photo: Duncan Lomax

universal need to comfort babies through chant, rhythm and melody is at its heart and the team collect local songs through ‘lullaby booths’. The project has drawn major collaborators from across Scandinavia.

Music Poetry In Song: Shabnam Khan & Co. Seven Arts, Leeds Music Chalte Chalte: Pooja Angra and Karan Rana Sage, Gateshead

Till 12 Feb


Exhibition Garden Within A Garden: Imran Qureshi Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford




Shadow Caste By Ian Abbott

Sadhana Dance, Unkindest Cut (Subathra Subramaniam and Aideen Malone) Unkindest Cut premièred in 2016 at Pavilion Dance South West; set inside two shipping containers, it’s an intimate performance and installation with a solo female dancer that looks at the emotional landscape of young people and mental health. It was developed in association with Consultant Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Partha Banerjea and the South London and Maudsley Adolescent Mental Health Services. AM: Suba is interested in lighting more than any choreographer I’ve worked with; we started to work together when she was with Angika nearly fifteen years ago and for the first four works for Sadhana Dance we’ve (Suba, myself, Kathy Hinde and Matthew Olden) worked as a team of equal collaborators. Our starting-point was a conversation about the subject matter and something immediately clicked with the idea of linear lines of light. I’d worked on a previous production and as part of that lighting design I created these 2-metre long LEDs that look like fluorescent tubes. SS: The tubes of light have so many different connotations. Aideen’s lights 6 PULSE WINTER 2016

were the focus around which everything else pivoted. A lot of my movement material was based on where the lights were, what position they were in and when they were lit; every light has a narrative of its own. My work is conceptually driven and bharatanatyam is my starting-point – Aideen doesn’t need to know the intricacies of the form (although she does), she needs to know the essence of the concept; it’s not lighting the dancers or the form, it’s embodying the concept.

“The nine LED lines of light became characters that could change the mood and emotion of the space very quickly.” AM: We completed an early twentyminute sharing where we all improvised rather than having pre-set cues. I don’t normally operate a lighting board (as a designer I rarely tour with my work), but Kathy and Matt’s improvisatory practice influenced me and it created an intensity and liveness that we carried on into the

performance. The nine LED lines of light became characters that could change the mood and emotion of the space very quickly. There was an intensity of colour, from apricot to blue to red to green; I’ve worked with Anish Kapoor and he uses rich pigments and certain bold colours because the rods and cones of the eye deal with some colours better than others. SS: Aideen had designed for Akram Khan Company (Kaash) and I liked the way she lit the lines of movement; because bharatanatyam is so symmetrical I was drawn to her and the way her light accentuated the physicality. AM: I’m interested in bharatanatyam because it’s so angular and it has connections with the angularity of the movement of light. The lights for Unkindest Cut are acrylic tubes with LED strips inside, complete with a frosting to make them opaque; they’re also controllable by a lighting desk. We fixed a microphone onto the power supplies of the lights to pick up the pulse and hum of the electricity as it created a low tonal buzz when they’re operated and we mixed that into the score. When it tours again next summer Matt’s going to build a bespoke lighting desk so that all the lighting, sound and projection can be operated from one source.

After spending time with a number of lighting designers and choreographers from India and the UK I began to uncover a rich dialogue of how they collaborate and explore the philosophy, dramaturgy and visual possibilities that can exist between light and choreography. The conversations I encountered uncovered the many benefits of bringing a lighting designer into a creative process early. Those that value their input equally embed them into the research and rehearsal studio, are willing to listen to alternative perspectives and are rewarded with a more cohesive visual experience. Their sharply-trained eyes offer choreographers alternative rhythms, angles and possibilities.

Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company, Inter_rupted (Aditi Mangaldas and Fabiana Piccioli) Inter_rupted is a work made for largescale theatres. It emerges from the body while exploring fragility, disintegration, resilience, invincibility and renewal. After premièring in Mumbai in March 2016 it came to the UK (via Germany) for Dance Umbrella 2016 and continued with a short English tour with dates in Salford, Leicester and Coventry. FP: We talk a lot about dramaturgy and I poke my nose in other places because I’m interested in meanings. I come from storytelling because I come from Akram, where every gesture is part of a story and we cut it with a knife to find the meaning. Farooq Chaudhry (dramaturg on Inter_rupted) said to Aditi “be brave and true” because sometimes kathak creates a barrier and mask; he helped her drop the mask and show more of what she fears and who she is. Aditi has a mathematical mind and is really precise: she has notes and draws the stage as a top view with an x here and then moves the x across stage; sometimes we have the same notes.


wers AM: There was already an aesthetic associated with the form – kathak has come from the temples and the Mughal courts with blackened surfaces and shadows from firelight. In 2010 Akram invited us to perform at Sadler’s Wells and it was here that he introduced me to Fabiana. We live in different countries and I don’t have my collaborators for a long time; it was one week with Fabiana just before the première but we’re constantly exchanging videos of the choreography and notes on Skype.

“…I’m allergic to front light as it exposes the space too much.” FP: I memorise and take cues very quickly because of my own dance training and I am a little more sculptural when it comes to dance; I sculpt the body, not wanting to manipulate it too much as light can sustain and support dance. I like old-style lighting, like par cans (lights with reflector and lens), and I’m allergic to front light as it exposes the space too much. In Aditi’s classical work my lighting rhythm is dictated by changes in the music, whereas in the contemporary work we challenge the usual conventions

– it’s a nice contamination of my style of lighting and her rhythm; I follow her and try to be more economical. Less light equals more light.

“Less light equals more light.” AM: Light is a language in itself; when talking about disintegration, you see the light as if it’s crumbling and there are crossfades and snaps as well as texture, colour, intensity and patterns. Most of my choreographies are autobiographical. I hold the concept in my head for a long time and then share it with Fabiana; we discuss the concept and let ideas brew separately which breathes dance into it. It’s the same when we look at my classical and contemporary choreography – in classical there’s a purer (I don’t like that word) essence and in contemporary, the essence has been watered with many contemporary inputs, including the light, and that seed can grow in many directions.




Hemabharathy Palani, Twine and Trikonanga Twine and Trikonanga were curated by International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016 in partnership with Sampad. Trikonanga is a solo work that bridges three regions of the body – head, navel and toe – and it leaves traces of triangles in space. Twine (a work for three dancers) ties together different ideas of solitude while exploring the elasticity with which people can become extensions of each other.

HP: Light has to do everything that I don’t say with my body. When you’re presenting your work in another country you might not speak the same language as the house technicians (I used to be terrified of speaking English) and so sound cues become the anchor points for lighting changes. Maybe the technician cannot see the difference between the specific hand gestures of kuchipudi, kalaripayattu and bharatanatyam, so I developed a set of clear instructions to communicate what I needed; I show a video of the full performance with cue 1, place 1, the mountain position, cue 2, place 2, the monkey position, etc. and when I do this movement you have thirty seconds till the next cue. It is one of the perils of having to do everything on your own when you tour internationally.



Seeta Patel, Something Then, Something Now (Seeta Patel and Guy Hoare) The varnam (an item that uses both nonnarrative and expressional dance) that formed the central pillar of Something Then, Something Now was originally created for Seeta Patel’s Wild Card at Sadler’s Wells before her classical recital premièred at the Darbar Festival (the first piece of dance to be presented there), before its UK tour in autumn 2015. GH: There’s something inherently intriguing about making a solo; I like it to be a dialogue between the performer and the light. When Seeta approached me, the attraction was that I knew nothing about classical Indian dance – I had worked with Mayuri (ATMA Dance) and Shobana (Shobana Jeyasingh Dance) before but I’d never made a classical work with them. Seeta gave me a crash course in the form, she talked me through structure of the varnam and what I latched on to was the binary nature of the jati (pattern of syllables) and the abinhaya (expressive dance).

“…it was more about trying to find the lines so you didn’t always see my face.” SP: I bumped into Guy after Shobana’s Strange Blooms and was bowled over by what he did. He was very flamboyant in a long velvet jacket at the bar and yet so open and down-to-earth. There are some well-worn ways that classical bharatanatyam is lit and it’s sometimes a bit gaudy; we challenged some of the traditionalists in the audience by looking at the architecture of the form and in the pure dance sections it was more about trying to find the lines so you didn’t always see my face. GH: We lit each jati separately with nine rigid evenly-spaced corridors of light – they defined the route I went down. We talked through how the more geometric and sharp edges lent themselves to the rhythmical jati sections, whereas the soft edges and breathing light fitted better with the abinhaya. I feel quite strongly that every lighting design is a bit of artistic development. Working together gave me a confidence to get under the skin of the

complexity of the music and when I first listened I would get lost choreographically as I wasn’t used to the rhythms; they’re now locked into my head and I have a more complex rhythmical brain than just 4/4. SP: He was sensitive to the needs of the work and to the fact that I didn’t have the capacity to tour extravagantly, but he created something simple and extraordinarily elegant. The sensitivity to the breath, narrative and crescendos were very detailed and there are over 400 cues in Something Then Something Now. Variations on a theme is the best way for how I think lighting should be, giving you flavour but not straying too far from the centre. Working with Guy has shown me that there needs to be an understanding of time and light; the choreography undulates and grows and the light needs to do that as well.



Breathing Light into Dance A Dancer’s Perspective


he creation of a lighting design conceptualised in tandem with the dance is a work of art by itself. As a choreographer, I create my work visualising the dance simultaneously with the lighting to create a holistic experience. Dance and lighting need to fit as hand in glove: to envelop, caress and seduce the dancer to create an aura that is divine. Properly lit, the dancer on stage can become a magical being. And, if one is clever, the lighting can also shed a few pounds off the performer –


believe me, it can camouflage a multitude of sins. I speak on behalf of many South Asian dancers who, like me, can’t afford a lighting designer and have been thrown into situations where they have had to devise a lighting design themselves. Since lighting is not a module in the gurushishya parampara, the unfamiliarity can be unnerving. But equally it can be a blessing in disguise, forcing one to learn on one’s feet. So how could we think about enhancing our performance? I would

suggest through five support structures: the skills of the painter, the architect, the civil engineer, the mixologist and the poet. By marrying the visions of these mindsets, a choreographer can tap into tremendous possibilities.

“...the meticulous shading of light and dark colours...the ‘Caravaggio’ effect’.”


Dancer/choreographer Kali Chandrasegaram urges dance artists to become sensitive to the interplay of light and movement – what he calls the ‘synergy of the human aura and particles of light creates a synchronised dance’.


Painter Just like a painter who breathes life into his painting with the meticulous shading of light and dark colours, the lighting design can differentiate the Monets and Caravaggios of dance. By playing with the intensity and the angle of the beam according to the moving body and the intention behind the movements, one can generate a state of rasa (an emotional response) in the audience. One can sculpt the body with sidelights (the best friends of dance) hung

on booms (vertical poles) in the wings and set at the level of shins, mids and heads (technical terms corresponding to parts of the body lit). They have the power to light the body brightly, while modelling it at the same time. As the booms light the dancer more than the floor, the dancer appears to float in the space. This is what I call the ‘Caravaggio’ effect. The use of colour can intensify the emotive quality of the performers. One can use a white dance floor as a blank canvas to throw and blend colours as Cheng

Tsung–lung, the artistic director and choreographer of Cloud Gate 2 does in his choreography Beckoning, or create linear corridors and angular shapes of colours as in the works of Matisse.




“...Choreographers need to have the eye of an architect...”


Architect To create high defining shapes and forms in perspective, dancers and choreographers need to have the eye of an architect, one who uses the light and shades within a structure to bring out the most appealing vision. The stage is the perfect environment to create an illusion of perfection…perfect symmetry, perfect lines and perfect contrast. Considering the distance between the audience and the performer in relation to the space, the illusion of distance can be created by varying the intensity of the lights and using the sidelights in transition. The vast empty space can be considerably reduced to create an intimate setting by carefully lighting certain areas of the stage to achieve the effect of ‘pools of light’.

Civil Engineer When we are using visuals and need to decide where in the space we are going to put these, the civil engineer’s thinking comes into play. The performance needs to take the audience on a journey, so we map the visuals to make this seamless. The pathways can take the form of a motorway, a flyover, a bridge, a zig-zag, a cross junction or a roundabout. If the pathways end at the edge of the stage then we can either decide to turn back, to continue beyond the stage or simply have a blackout…end of a chapter.

“..The right measure for each element.” Mixologist “It doesn’t have the right mix”, we often hear said when the elements are not harmoniously balanced. Just as in baking or cooking, when one doesn’t get the amount in the mix right, the dish can flop! A mixologist mindset will know what is the

“SPECIALS CAN BE IN THE FORM OF TOP LIGHTING OR BACKLIGHTING, CREATING SHADOWS AND SILHOUETTES…” Poet For me, what creates magic on the stage are the specials (lighting instruments used to create specific effects), which layer on a piece of dance like a poem. Specials can be in the form of top lighting or backlighting, creating shadows and silhouettes, so the performer becomes mysterious or elusive. Shadows can become an invisible partner to the dancer, multiplying the movement or taking and distorting shapes to create new patterns. The body in silhouette in a form as sculptural as bharatanatyam and odissi can produce exciting results. Often

used in combination with a cyclorama where the background is drenched in colour, the bodies become etchings. Good lighting not only enhances the dance but also breathes life into movements. Just as we dancers are hugely passionate about our form and technique, it is essential to carry that into the creative presentation on stage. Lighting for dance can make or break a performance. As a moth dances and flutters its wings in reaction to the movements of a flame, dancers and choreographers with affinity towards lighting feel the warmth as the light embraces the performer while in search of a surface upon which to reflect. This mutual attraction, the synergy of the human aura and light particles, creates a synchronised dance in itself. As human vision is limited one is not able to see this dance of the energies, but it can be felt when there is a connection. Sensitivity towards the sensation of light in space and in contact with skin and an awareness of the potential of the various light sources and states are key to creating magic on stage.




right measure for each element. I am not a fan of repetition, so for me each visual experience needs to be different.





ve been watching and writing about dance for two decades, which means – I guess – that I’ve been watching lighting for dance for just as long. But do I ever notice it? Sure I do – but usually, I confess, I simply see it. My focus is mostly on the dancing and the choreography. In my defence, the lighting itself is often designed to complement the choreography or direct attention towards the performance. Furthermore, if you put a human body into a field of vision – a stage, say – it immediately seizes our attention. That’s human instinct, and lighting can’t ignore it.

sets. As we look upwards, it feels like a scene from Close Encounters; as the beams rake over us or, at the heart-stopping end, plunge towards us, we know that we are more than onlookers: we are being addressed. It’s not only beautiful to watch, it’s dramatic to experience. “It’s a show,” agrees Hulls when I talk to him later. “It has a dramatic dynamic, and the ending is definitely a moment of theatre. It’s all down to the timing and energy. You try to create a series of emotional responses, to make people feel relaxed, threatened, exhilarated. The tools for doing that are almost universal: rhythm, structure, flow, emotion, colour, light and shade.” Maybe so, but the process is pretty particular. In dance, the nitty-gritty of creation starts with the dancers in rehearsal; with LightSpace Hulls had just three days before the opening to work with the lights in the theatre – and that But what if there is no body? That was time was mostly spent ensuring that the idea behind, and indeed title of, a project everything worked. The work itself had to shown at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre in be created in advance, in the abstract. June. No Body was a promenade through a series of installations that, by removing live performers completely, foregrounded the different media that often work in consort with dance – lighting, sound, costume, video (I would have loved to have seen some text up there too). It included two lighting designers: Michael Hulls (best known for his To see just how abstract this is, Hulls collaborations with choreographer Russell shows me his notebook. Some pages look like Maliphant), and Lucy Carter (who has a mix of geometry and algebra: arrangements worked most often with Wayne McGregor of numbered, colour-coded squares, some and Shobana Jeyasingh). with purple outlines. Another page looks like a Pianola tape, lines of varying lengths and colours plotted side by side and carefully numbered. “All these notations,” explains Hulls, “are ways of visualising something that does not yet exist. I had to work it all out in my head, second by second.” It’s a kind of invented code, like a DNA that will come to life only later. Crucially, it can be shared with other collaborators – specifically the Hulls’ LightSpace feels initially like an composers, who needed a detailed timeline art installation. The main Sadler’s Wells to be able to start writing music. The team stage is thronged with suspended clusters did try 3D visualisation software, but found of tungsten bulbs, glowing and fading that although it was useful for Urbanowski’s mysteriously like will-o’-the-wisps. video, it wasn’t workable for the tungsten Soon, you realise that far from there being scenes. Those were entirely down to paper, no body, there are plenty of bodies: us, coloured pens, painstaking brainwork – and wandering entranced around the stage. a creative vision. Soon after, the piece begins to mutate, as the lighting clusters start to rise and fall, and a soundscore (Andy Cowton and Mukul) grows in strength and definition. Then the whole panoply lifts up and away, Where Hulls brings us onstage, Lucy to be replaced by a video projector as the light source and digital animations created Carter’s trio of pieces called Hidden takes us backstage. In the wardrobe rooms there are by video designer Jan Urbanowski. A blank-faced wig-blocks, rails of costumes pinpoint beam expands to fill the stage, that once clothed dancers, washing machines thin walls create shifting, smoke-filled lit from within their rotating drums. rooms for us to pass through, space-age There are no performers, but you sense rays irradiate us. Far from being an art the afterglow of live presences – dancers, installation, LightSpace turns out to be stagehands, backstage staff. In the control the most theatrical event of the evening room, a soundtrack plays while the lighting – taking place on the main stage, with a defined beginning and end, a dramatic arc, desk is animated as if by the invisible ghost and an almost cinematic sense of sequential of a technician. In the lighting store room,

“…These notations are ways of visualising something that does not yet exist…”

LightSpace | PHOTO: Chantal Guevara

“...By removing live performers… foregrounded… lighting, sound…”

“Far from being an art installation, LightSpace turns out to be the most theatrical event of the evening...”

“…Carter’s (piece) feels to me like music.”


Carter has created a tour de force – a kind of concert of tungsten stage lights composed into what one viewer called an ‘electric light orchestra’ – a veritable symphony of light that starts with sporadic flickers and flares, and builds to bright chordal synchronies and sweeping glissandi, backed up by a mutable soundscore of hisses and thrums. If Hulls’ piece feels close to theatre, Carter’s feels to me like music. When I speak to Carter, she concurs but focuses my attention back towards the lights rather than the idea of music. For her, the lights were like characters. “Each one,” she says, “has its own personality. As the piece develops they start to play. I wanted to show their energy and their interactions.” She duly worked closely with composer Jules Maxwell to ensure that the soundtrack seemed to come from the noise of the lights

LightSpace | PHOTO: Michael Hulls

takesthe Lead



themselves – fizzes, hums, crackles – rather than sounding like musical instruments. “You feel that the lights are creating the soundscore, not following it.”

“You feel that the lights are creating the soundscore, not following it.” Intrigued by her naturally light-centric view (and conscious of my own bias: theatre, music), I ask Carter about some amorphous pillow shapes that appeared dotted around the three installations, phosphorescing like mysterious deep-sea creatures. “Ah, the ‘pebbles’,” she says. “We thought of them as expressing the energies and emotions of

Dance writer Sanjoy Roy went along to Dance Umbrella’s event No Body at Sadler’s Wells, which put lighting maestros Michael Hulls and Lucy Carter’s installations as the centrepiece of the performance. Roy, in conversation, explores the ideas and inspirations that sparked their creations.

creativity: tension, excitement, calm. But,” she reassures me, “they were more like questions for the audience than statements.” So, I figure, unfathomable sea-slugs is okay. Carter had eight days on site compared with Hulls’ three, but of course the vast bulk of the creation happened during the months before that. “It’s by no means all technical,” she says. “A lot of it is discussion, about ideas and emotions.” It strikes me that although their works and their working processes are very different, Hulls and Carter have several strong points in common. One is a real love of the old tungsten bulb, and a desire not just to show its qualities but to programme it to best effect. Another is their recognition of, and reliance on, the fundamentally collaborative nature of their work, whether they are the lead or a supporting artist. It’s

a group effort either way; the difference is their position within the team. Finally, both of them stress that light brings its own ‘intelligence’ (in Carter’s words) to bear on the stage. “It’s entirely possible to make theatre through lighting alone,” says Hulls, and after LightSpace I certainly believe him. For Carter, “lighting has its own ideas; it’s not just a support for choreography or performance. It communicates concepts, themes, emotions, even if the audience doesn’t know where they’re coming from.” That basic truth is also a little spur to me, as a dance writer, to get in the habit of noticing lighting a little more than I do now. The article was first printed in Focus, the magazine of the Association of Lighting Designers:



At the Navadisha conference in Birmingham last summer, the subject of fitness in dance was raised. It’s a subject often associated with contemporary and ballet dance, but if classical ballet companies have now embraced fitness and conditioning, how might this also benefit South Asian dance?

“…the need to…reduce the risk of injury is imperative.” With the ever-increasing demands of choreography across all genres of dance, the need to train to meet these demands and reduce the risk of injury is imperative. Ballet and contemporary dancers have reported injury rates of 80 per cent, with the highest number of injuries relating to the lower body, ankles and knees. The perceived cause of these injuries was predominantly from overwork, fatigue and recurrence of old injuries. Based on anecdotal observation the common sites of injury are mirrored within South Asian styles such as kathak and bharatanatyam, with pronated feet and internally-rotated femurs (inward-pointed knees) a familiar problem among dancers.

“…the onset of fatigue can be delayed through a high level of physical fitness.” As the body begins to fatigue through a performance, the precision of movement is reduced, movement patterns are disrupted and risk of injury is increased. These can affect the aesthetics of the dance and the overall performance; however, the onset of fatigue can be delayed through a high level of physical fitness.

“A lot of injuries happen…when the dancer is too tired.” Within other classical forms such as ballet there was initially resistance to fitness training outside the dance studio. In an interview for the Independent, ex-Royal Ballet dancer Deborah Bull noted: “A lot of injuries happen at six o’clock when the 16 PULSE WINTER 2016


What does it have to do with performance in South Asian dance forms?

By Claire Farmer and Seema de Jorge-Chopra

courtesy akademi | PHOTO: simon richarson

dancer is too tired. Some injuries are just bad luck; others are the result of having to, or choosing to, work when something is painful.”

“Sometimes the stage looks like a running track before the show.” Despite reservations from other classical ballet colleagues, Deborah began a training regime including running (aerobic training) and short bursts of exercise such as sprinting (anaerobic training) to prepare for the demands of performance. “They used to laugh at me…but some of them would say ‘Why aren’t you tired, where does your strength come from?’ and gradually there was a lot more jogging going on. Sometimes the stage looks like a running track before the show.” Helen Laws of One Dance UK recently discussed the challenges of managing fitness and health in dancers. Health professionals, dance companies and individual dancers actually all want the same thing: to be able to create the most inspiring, moving, energetic, exhilarating performance while maintaining the health of the dancers.

“Dance training...has traditionally focused on technique with little consideration for stamina.” Research has demonstrated that dance class alone does not produce a significant change in levels of fitness, notably in aerobic capacity and strength. Dance training, in all forms, has traditionally focused on technique with little consideration for stamina. Each dance genre, and within that, each piece of choreography ‒ classical or contemporary ‒ makes different demands on the body: repetitive movement, changes in dynamic movement, control of fast and slow movement, as well as speed and power. Therefore ensuring the body is at peak fitness, encompassing muscular power, strength and endurance, flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic capacity, is important, not only to reduce the risk of injury, but to be able to perform to the optimal potential with the grace, beauty and inspiring physicality associated with dance. How does this relate to South Asian dance? Kathak, for example, sharing roots with flamenco, can involve short bursts

of high-intensity movement, with percussive movements of the legs and feet, fast spins, and expressive movements of the upper body. An additional physical demand for kathak dancers is the weight of 2.5kg of brass bells around the ankles to complement rhythmic patterns with the bare feet striking rapidly upon the floor with an average of 240 steps per minute. Bharatanatyam and kuchipudi also use high-intensity movement, but with added deep pliés as a key movement characteristic. Alongside this, as one of the most important elements of South Asian choreography, nritya – classical dance with abhinaya (expression) – requires physical control and balance of the body, while nritta (pure dance) requires endurance and stamina to perform dynamic movement over long periods of time.

of 60 to 70 per cent of maximum heart rate, is optimal following intense kathak dance activity (90 per cent of heart rate max). Passive (seated) recovery resulted in a rapid decline in heart rate and should be avoided after intense dance activity. During this study recovery/cool-down was monitored through readings of heart rate and blood lactate levels.

“…what…would help you perform…one extra chakkar, ending in a stoic pose…”

Although there is currently little dance medicine and science research within the South Asian dance genres, the first steps to investigating these demands have begun and are key to ensuring the continued health and wellbeing of dancers and the longevity of their dance careers. Working alongside leading dance medicine and science researchers and advocates, we would encourage South Asian dance artists to explore these components of fitness: Training for the demands of performance is what aspects would help you perform to key across all dance genres. Choreographers your optimal potential? – to perform one have often stretched the traditions of extra chakkar, ending in a stoic pose; to kathak to attract today’s audience by fusing make sharper movements, or to maintain traditional movement vocabulary with balance and stability as you perform slow, contemporary dance; this has demanded graceful movements in vilambit laya a new physicality from their dancers and (slow speed) while sustaining the stage introduced a greater range of movement presence for which you have trained hard. and flexibility. The same is true of other This is a young topic in dance science for classical dance forms such as ballet, where which a collaborative communication boundaries have been challenged through between dance educators and dancers is collaboration with choreographers from required to fill the gaps in knowledge and other dance genres. to create an awareness of the physicality of these art forms. Dancers can help dance science understand the demands of South Asian dance and dance science can help dancers to create more beautiful, inspiring performances. This article has been written on behalf of Akademi, National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science and One Dance UK. Furthermore, the importance of a warmClaire Farmer MSc is Interim Manager of up and then cool-down after intense the National Institute of Dance Medicine dance activity cannot be understated, as and Science at One Dance UK and Dance discussed in a preliminary investigation Well Project Officer at Akademi. Seema with kathak dancers looking at cool-down de Jorge-Chopra MSc is a Dance Science after intense dance activity. An abrupt Graduate Intern, kathak disciple of Shri end to exercise can contribute to muscle Abhay Shankar Mishra, kathak educator soreness and cramping. This is where and conditioning coach. cool-down is important as a vital aspect of training, by allowing the heart rate to reduce gradually, allowing the blood Further resources: to be redistributed throughout the body and replenish muscle energy levels. The results of the kathak dance study suggest that an active cool-down consisting of light jogging and slowed down specific movements, conducted for a duration of fifteen minutes at an intensity

“Choreographers… demanded a new physicality…”

“…importance of a warm-up and then cool-down after intense dance activity…”




Cited articles Ambegaonkar, J., Caswell, S., Winchester, J., Caswell, A. & Andre, M. (2012), ‘Upper-body muscular endurance in female university-level modern dancers: A pilot study’, Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 16(1), pp.3‒7. Andersen, J.C. (2005), ‘Stretching before and after exercise: Effect on muscle soreness and injury risk’, Journal of Athletic Training, 40, p.218. Castillo-Lopez et al (2014), ‘Metatarsal Pain and Plantar Hyperkeratosis in the Forefeet of Female Professional Flamenco Dancers’, Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 29 (4), pp.193‒7. Chopra, S. & Needham-Beck, S. (2015), ‘Effects of active and passive cool-down protocols on recovery following intensive Kathak dance and footwork’, MSc Dance Science thesis, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London. Daly, E. (1996), ‘I would have been anorexic if I’d had the willpower’, the Independent, 23 October. Available at Herbert, R.D. & Gabriel, M. (2002), ‘Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review’, British Medical Journal, 325(7362), p.468. Koutedakis, Y., Cross, V. & Sharp, N. (1996), ‘Strength training in male ballet dancers’, Impulse: International Journal of Dance Science, Medicine & Education, 4(3), pp.210–19. Koutedakis, Y. & Jamurtas, A. (2004), ‘The dancer as a performing athlete: physiological considerations’, Sports Medicine, 34(10), pp.651‒61. Laws, H. (2006), Fit to Dance 2: Report of the Second National Inquiry Into Dancers’ Health and Injury in the UK, England: Dance UK. Laws, H. (2016), ‘How do we cut down on dance injuries?’, The Stage, 14 April. Available at https:// Laws, H., Marsh, C. & Wyon, M. (2012), ‘Warming up and cooling down’, England, Dance UK. McEldowney, K., Hopper, L., Etlin-Stein, H. & Redding, E. (2013), ‘Fatigue Effects on Quadriceps and Hamstrings Activation in Dancers Performing Drop Landings’, Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 17(3), pp.109‒14. Olsen, O., Sjøhaug, M., Van Beekvelt, M. & Mork, P.J. (2012), ‘The effect of warm-up and cool-down exercise on delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in the Quadriceps Muscle: a Randomized Controlled Trial’, Journal of Human Kinetics, 35(1). Philips, M. (2013), ‘Becoming the floor/breaking the floor: Experiencing the Kathak-Flamenco connection’, Ethnomusicology, 57(3), pp.396‒427. Redding, E., Weller, P., Ehrenberg, S., Irvine, S., Quin, E., Rafferty, S., Cox, C. & Wyon, M. (2009), ‘The development of a high intensity dance performance fitness test’, Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 13(1), pp.3‒9. Rodrigues-Kraus, J., Kraus, M. & ReischakOliveira, A. (2015), ‘Cardiorespiratory considerations in dance: from classes to performances’, Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 19(3), pp.91‒102.


Exams onthe menu Champion exam-taker Parbati Chaudhury shares her experience of dance exams from first grades up to the most advanced professional qualification offered by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD). Through childhood tears to adult enjoyment of working with musicians in the course of being examined, Parbati affirms that ultimately, the ISTD syllabus and examination system is empowering.


hen one pictures a dance audition, the tail-end scenes from films such as Flashdance and Save the Last Dance come to mind: the dancer’s virtuosity jolts the bored-stiff panellists, leading to inspired head-bopping and quietly impressed smiles. Dance exams, on the other hand, hardly conjure up that same life-changing sense of occasion. However, as someone who recently completed the final Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing’s Vocational Graded Examination in Kathak (yes, quite the mouthful), I can assure you that the experience is actually quite exhilarating.

“…I needed further persuasion…” My teacher, Urja Desai Thakore, encouraged me to take the ISTD exams when I first started training with her. Initially I was not keen, having completed the three-year Diploma and two-year Post-Diploma at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. I fared well in those exams but remembered, as a child, how my nerves led me to choke and cry; and then as a complacent teenager revising my theory notes while my parents drove me across town to the Bhavan, asking if I felt ‘well-

prepared’. Now as an adult and without the compulsion of parental pressure, I needed further persuasion to take even more exams. Fast-forward four years and to the blank page of my emergent professional dance career: my teacher becomes pregnant and needs a teaching assistant. I have an appetite for teaching, having volunteered at a first-aid charity in my late teens, and had looked into secondary school-teaching as a career option. So when Urja asked whether I wanted to develop this side of my new-born career, I was genuinely drawn to her proposition. I initially shadowed and learned an invaluable amount from just observing Urja’s sharp eye. I quickly felt the need to re-examine my dance, becoming far more mindful of the reasoning and consistency of my technique and of the layers that can be explored in any particular movement. As I began actively assisting and eventually covering, I realised the weight of responsibility attached to the role. This sense of duty motivated me to look more closely into the examination system through which a majority of these students wanted to pass. I then reconsidered the

EXAMS on the menu

with a logical progression of knowledge, understanding and application over both artistic and physical capabilities. I particularly like the emphasis on safe dance practice and the specified ancillary skills that take one out of their comfort zone – I can now just about play theka (the accompaniment pattern) on tabla!

Parbati Chaudhury | Photo: Tanaya Paradkar

“These exams are the closest I have come to a live solo recital.”

‘Successful candidates taking the Kathak Vocational Graded examinations should show virtuosity in performance, a high standard of technique and a sound knowledge and understanding of the genre, including an understanding of reference and context.’

exams and began the process of dusting off those old theory notes. The Vocational Graded Examinations in Kathak comprise Intermediate Foundation, Intermediate, Advanced 1 and Advanced 2 (and are preceded by Grades 1‒6). For comparison, these qualifications range from the equivalent of a GCSE (Intermediate) up to a higher level 4 Diploma – the first year of an undergraduate degree (Advanced 2). The accreditation of the final two vocational grades can be used to attain professional qualifications such as the Diploma in Dance Instruction (DDI) and the Diploma in Dance Education (DDE) that can be delivered by Approved Dance Centres (ADCs) or academic qualifications such as the BA (Hons) in Professional Practice in the Arts (BAPP) affiliated with Middlesex University. I was allowed to enter this series at the Intermediate grade, progressing onto Advanced 1 and finally Advanced 2. I feel that I have been able to proficiently consolidate my practical and theoretical knowledge as both a young dancer and junior teacher. The syllabus is well thought through,

The aspect I actually relished during the exam series was the live musical accompaniment. These exams are the closest I have come to a live solo recital. From Grade 5 onwards, a tabla player and a lehra (musical phrase) keeper – sitar, harmonium or sarangi player – need to be organised by the candidates or their teachers and marks are awarded for presentation, enjoyment and rapport with the musicians, demonstrating (to myself also) that I can confidently develop and play within this relationship. The energy created is wonderfully stimulating. Finding these ‘energisers’, however, is, ironically, draining. There seems to be quite the pay gap between professional dancers and musicians (lucky them!), so it is difficult to cover their fees at a rate that is both affordable and fair. I have been turned down by many because the fees have been too low, despite meeting Equity standards, but have also been able to work with some very talented, understanding and supportive players. Grumbles among teachers are common with regard to particular specifications not seeming necessary and qualms about a lack of coverage of other features of the form. This is understandable but expected, considering the breadth of gharana practised in kathak, with further variations as dancer-teachers tend to gradually develop their individual style and interests. Ultimately, I feel that the existence of the syllabus is empowering and that it offers a pathway towards somehow emulating our own dear and respected teachers. Now, for any potential eager exam beavers, here’s some advice: Become very familiar with the syllabus: > This seems obvious but too many candidates do not spend enough time on this. > Pay attention to the language used in the specifications from one grade or level to the next to understand the progression. It is easier said than done, especially with various competing commitments, but do prepare as much as possible. The reward is definitely in the practice and research. Good luck! WINTER 2016 PULSE 19


CD Review Land of Gold

16 July 2016 Anoushka Shankar Deutsche Grammophon Reviewed by Ken Hunt


uring the first days of September 2015 television screens and the front pages of newspapers across the world filled with a tragic tale from a never-finished saga. A small Syrian boy of Kurdish extraction had drowned with his mother and brother in the family’s attempt to cross the stretch of salt water separating Turkey and freedom. He was washed ashore near Bodrum in Turkey. There the Turkish photojournalist Nilüfer Demir photographed the toddler’s lifeless body on the strand. The boy’s name was initially reported

drowning triggered what would evolve into one of the crowning achievements of Anoushka Shankar’s musical career. There are two separate Lands of Gold. The first is the tangible Deutsche Grammophon artefact, released in April 2016. The second is the one that migrated to concert stages during 2016 and 2017. She co-produced the former with her husband and father of their sons, Zubin and Mohan, Joe Wright who directed, among others, the films Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina. The title represents the music’s central premise, namely people’s striving to get to a figurative Land of Gold. The twist is that now that Promised Land is not necessarily El Dorado-like but more to do with places of safety. In the town’s library at the Rudolstadt Festival this July, Anoushka and I discussed her husband’s input. What she homed in on was

Photo: Jamie-Jamies Medina / Deutsche Grammophon

to be Aylan Kurdi. That is the spelling that Anoushka Shankar uses in her notes to Land of Gold, an album of consummate nearperfection, musical engagement and enduring relevance for present times. “The seeds of Land of Gold originated,” she writes, “in the context of the humanitarian plight of refugees. It coincided with the time when I had recently given birth to my second child. I was deeply troubled by the intense contrast between my ability to provide for my baby and others who desperately wanted to provide the same security for their children but were unable to do so.” That small boy’s death by 20 PULSE WINTER 2016

his helping her to focus on the music’s narrative journeys. Narratives are the pivot points on these journeys. Co-written by Shankar and percussionist Manu Delago, the album’s instrumental overture, Boat To Nowhere provides interweavings and overlayerings of Hindustani, Western classical and jazz strands that set the standard of what is to come. Sprinkled amid the ten tracks are vocal collaborations. Aside from a brief yet telling snatch of BBC actuality that partway through Dissolving Boundaries descends into radio bulletin blur, in order of appearance these are the hip-hop artist M.I.A. on Jump In (Cross The Line), the German-Turkish

singer-songwriter Alev Lenz on Land of Gold, the actress-narrator Vanessa Redgrave on Remain the Sea and Rhyl Primary School Girls for Equality on Reunion. It is a concept album in the old sense of the word and its music is riveting. A studio recording may be like a television pilot that needs time to develop. Indeed, concert performances need to lead independent lives to the studio counterparts. That is another variant on the creative process. For many, a core passion in the arts is to learn how a piece of music, a drama or novel, a painting or dance unfolded and changed. In the case of music the process might be something like going from a sketch or demo recording to the finished piece. Miles Davis habitually listened back to concert tapes to pry out passages of spontaneous creativity in the fleeting moment that had kernels. However small the feint or pattern touched upon, it could be a new launchpad to incorporate and explore. The Netherlandish painter Adriaen van de Velde kept sketchbooks of figures and scenes to insert into his landscapes. On the other hand, The Eagles were supposedly content to replicate their stage-show standbys like Hotel California, Life In The Fast Lane and Take It Easy note for note. Happy to be disabused, Eagles fans… Land of Gold’s transition to concert and festival stages required a recalibration of the work. Budget, as ever, was an important factor. The core line-up reduced to Manu Delago on Hanghang – the plural of the Swiss-invented idiophone, Hang – and electronic drums; Tom Farmer on double bass, keyboards and triggers; Anoushka on sitar; and Sanjeev Shankar on shehnai (Indian shawm). The concert programme involved a process of honing and focusing, substitution and replacement, try-out and retention. However, by the Rudolstadt Festival in Germany the elements of playing within fixed arrangements or the places where extemporisation could fly seemed pretty solid. Watching the show’s broadcast on the public Franco-German TV network ARTE reinforced concert impressions. They were further reinforced by the programme’s performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London in October 2016. Farmer now triggers the

M.I.A. vocal but what stands out so much now is Sanjeev Shankar’s shehnai. For example, on Crossing The Rubicon it takes on the exuberance and wildness of Ornette Coleman during his Dancing In Your Head majesty. Coleman also tapped into a mind-altering, head-piercing shawm tradition for that work, that of the ghaita shawm that inspired Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka. But shehnai now is another aspect in microcosm of what Land of Gold live is now. Removed yet linked to its original inspiration. It is worthy of a live release in its own right. With thanks to Angela Sulivan and Lizzy Frost at Sulivan Sweetland.

Music Performance Aruna Sairam & Jayanthi Kumaresh

17 September 2016 Darbar Festival Royal Festival Hall, London Reviewed by Ken Hunt


ith Aruna Sairam, what need is there to equivocate or elaborate? She is one of the most defining and moving voices in the world of music, irrespective of musical genre. And hers stretches from core Carnatic traditions to the multi-dimensional Trialogue collaboration with Dominique Vellard and Noureddine Tahiri. The Saraswati vina player Jayanthi Kumaresh comes from generations steeped in that same South Indian classical system. On the maternal side, the remarkable Carnatic violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman was her uncle and the vina maestro Padmavathy Ananthagopalan, with whom she studied, is her aunt. She also learned from S. Balachander: no contest, the twentieth century’s most maverick and inspiring vainika or vina player. Might be mistaken here. Outwardly, Padmavathy Ananthagopalan seems or sounded like the stronger stylistic influence on Kumaresh’s vina playing. To go idiomatic, her playing, by turns spirited and sensitive, has a definite ‘touch of the Balachanders’. Accompanying them was violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, Patri Satish Kumar on mridangam (double-headed barrel hand


artistic development remain unorthodoxy within tradition and continuity within transition. Like that of Aruna Sairam and Jayanthi Kumaresh. But in order to do that, musicians need to be given a chance to prove themselves like this duo did. Like Darbar did. *Krump is an African-American dance style, for examples of which Alex Reuben’s documentary film Routes is recommended. More at

Dance Performance Plurality of Abhinaya Aruna Sairam | Photo: Arnhel De Serra

drum) and S. Karthick on ghatam (tuned clay pot). Their opener was a Carnatic concert kriti staple. (Kriti is a highly-evolved and refined genre of Hindu hymn composition.) Muthuswami Dikshitar, its author and one of the trinity of South Indian saint-poets, is a figure rooted in historicity but wreathed in legend. Sairam explained how he witnessed a drought, inspiring him to compose Anandamrita in ragam Amritavarshini. (Dikshitar composed in several languages, including a Tamil and Sanskrit admixture called Manipravalam, but a few days later she confirmed it was Sanskrit.) There is a kneejerk tendency to dismiss art or classical arts as fusty or irrelevant and removed from everyday reality. Especially in this age of overpopulation, climatic change and the noconcession desecration of natural resources, how much more ancient and contemporary can any subject get beyond water? Spoiler alert: the happy ending is that when Dikshitar sang it, the heavens opened up and rain bucketed down. Their interpretation melded. The second preliminary piece came from another ‘trinity man’. A low-register start introduced Tyagaraja’s kriti Brova Bharama in Bahudari which built and built in intensity over nine minutes or so. Mood set, they revealed the concert’s heart: an oldfashioned ragam-tanampallavi (RTP). Much of Carnatic music focuses/fixates on laid-down compositions with

limited improvisation. The RTP sequence allows spontaneous extemporisation to flow. Using Simhendra Madhyamam as its springboard, it flew with fixed composition and improvised passages including, during the pallavi, a delicious refrain by Kumaresh. The sequence allowed every participant to shine. And they did, brilliantly. The sixteenth-century c.e. composer Oothukkadu Venkata Subba Iyer’s thillana Kalinga Nartana in ragam Gambhira Nattai concluded. (Thillana is a rhythmic form close kin to Hindustani music’s tarana.) It concerns the Boy Krishna vanquishing Kalinga (more commonly Kaliya), the naga or serpent being king. He tapdanced, foot-stomped and krumped* Kalinga’s multiple heads into submission. This time around, Kumaresh’s rejoinders and passages, while democratic, dissipated the dynamics of Sairam’s solo interpretations of Kalinga Nartana. It was the evening’s one repertoire item to consider rethinking, rejigging or retiring. Sitting centrally behind the mixing desk, several things niggled about the sound. Especially at first, the vina was too high in the mix compared to the violin, mridangam and ghatam. That imbalance was never entirely sorted out. Part of that is to do with reining in Kumaresh’s volume, not on stage but in the mix. The Sky television transmission should rebalance that. What was delightful was the 2016 Darbar Festival giving a platform to this new and collectively unproven duo. Cornerstones of

11 September 2016 Nilima Devi and Anusha Subramanyam Dance4, Nottingham Reviewed by Sonali Dutta


any art forms have expressed the notion of plurality by transcending boundaries and evolving with the times. In today’s world, ‘multiculturalism’, ‘global’ and ‘inclusion’ are buzz-words. Plurality of Abhinaya showed how classical art has the potential to evolve constantly through time and space, and it was refreshing to see North and South Indian classical dance forms come together on the same stage. Nilima Devi (kathak) and Anusha Subramanyam (bharatanatyam)

on poetry, playback music, live vocals and instrumental music (mridangam). Anusha danced to a twelfth-century Indian poem depicting the romantic union of Krishna and Radha. The angst in pining for the beloved was portrayed by Nilima Devi on a beautiful brajbhasha musical piece. In addition, the two artists performed some items together. One of them was on an English poem, You, by Carol Ann Duffy, which was expressively sung by opera singer Natasha Jouhl accompanied by a visual backdrop projection created by Vipul Sangoi. The concept of plurality found its fullest expression in these sequences, where the eastern dances came together with western music. We were reminded of how the core emotions of love have travelled through time and space as Nilima Devi enacted a modern woman enthralled reading her lover’s texts on her mobile. The background poem for this was read out by Anusha from her mobile on stage. Manorama Prasad did a brilliant job with the vocals, with Ramchandran on mridangam, incorporating North Indian ragas for the kathak dancer. However, as both are primarily Carnatic musicians, there were times when the music felt more in keeping with the bharatanatyam movements. Perhaps in future, the music scores could be more

Nilima Devi and Anusha Subramanyam | Photo: Vipul Sangoi

used their styles to portray the eight different psychological stages of emotion of a woman in love, the Ashtha Nayika. The pieces were performed

sensitive to both dance forms. In addition, the synchronisation between the dancers, the singer and the visual presentation could be worked on to minimise WINTER 2016 PULSE 21


the interference of the styles of the different media with each other. The scrolling of the poem on the screen behind the dancers distracted the viewers from the performers. One suggestion would be for the opera singer to perform short clips of the poem alongside the visual presentation of the lyrics followed by its choreographic rendition by the dancers to instrumental music. The post performance discussion provided insights into how the project came alive and how the interaction between the performers and some workshop participants in earlier sharing events had informed the development of the pieces. Overall, this was a beautiful show assimilating yet respecting the differences of the two dance forms. The future for such inspirational collaborative works looks promising. Plurality of Abhinaya was hosted at Dance4 in Nottingham as part of Sunday Supplement. The project was produced and supported by Dance4 in Nottingham with the support of ACE, Milapfest, Sampad, the Asian Legal Advice Service and several anonymous art lovers.

Subduction Zone Friday 21 October 2016 Radical Ideas Rich Mix, London Reviewed by Seetal Kaur


here are some stories that get swept under the rug. Perhaps there aren’t enough opportunities to express them or there is an assumption that no

Mithila Sarma | Photo: Kabilan Raviraj Photography


one is listening. In many cases it’s because the storytellers are too busy trying to survive and move forward. This year, Rich Mix commissioned a range of new work to root out these very stories. The Radical Ideas call-out brought voices to the fore that expressed the history of protest, dissent and creativity in the East End. Its aim was to allow artists to imagine the London of the next decade and beyond. But one can only truly move forward after looking back and learning from past experiences. One story that made the cut was Subduction Zone from British Sri Lankan veena player and producer, Mithila Sarma. The unique and complex identity of British Tamils is one of the stories that are often hidden within specific contexts, but now the next generation is unfolding the richness of their refined cultural traditions and combining them with their equally strong urban influences. Geographically a boundary where two tectonic plates collide, Subduction Zone was cleverly redefined in a socio-political sense by Mithila and her cast of nine musicians and four dancers. The production highlighted how seemingly everyday occurrences actually speak volumes about the struggle to understand our own identity through a series of separate musical tableaux. Instruments on platforms enclosed the stage and artists slowly filtered in, brushing past lost dancers depicting the plight of Tamil refugees fleeing from conflict. Yarlinie Thanabalasingham’s

astoundingly smooth and soulful voice opened the scene and carried Tamil poetry, ad lib alaaps and RnB riffs with equal ease and emotive measure. Some of the strongest pieces were built around the experiences of a brown girl caught in between two cultures. Repetitive sounds of morning prayers were remixed with underlying electronic rhythms of London’s heartbeat as Abirami Namasivayam’s bharatanatyam gestures were uncontrollably morphed into popping and locking formations. “In the house that I was born, I am ‘darkie’,” formed the opening line of #unfairandlovely where spoken word was combined with bharatanatyam, Carnatic vocals and Kapilan Balasubramaniam’s captivating street dance to powerful effect. The theatrical element and emotional connection were strong in many pieces such as Taboo, which used the sensual poetry of Mahakavi Bharathiyar, contemporary composition of Girishh Gopalakrishnan and moving vocals of Kaviraj Singh to bring the magnetism and forbidden nature of romantic relationships to light within conservative South Asian societies. The audience chuckled, nodded, clapped and smiled along with many of the scenes that mirrored moments in their own lives. From being asked “Where are you actually from?” to what it feels like to eat your Indian packed lunch in a room full of people, each scene explored a separate area of cultural collision and conflict. Although the breaks were perhaps useful in enabling the viewer to take each piece in separately without trying to connect everything into a single narrative, the occasionally awkward changeovers tended to disrupt the audience’s attention and absorption in the themes. One thing was certain, however: the whole cast had a collective energy and seriousness in their approach that made the show professional but with enough playfulness thrown in to allow for authenticity too. There was no lack of talent on stage and the wide variety of elements that were combined to create Subduction Zone were incorporated with synchronicity. Whether it was the dancers’ swift movements and strong choreographic ideas or the energy of Western and Indian rhythms

and riffs, the collaborators had a strong vision that held a tangible story together. Even with limited resources, it is extremely important to have these kinds of opportunities and platforms for creativity to flourish; not only for more people to engage with diverse voices but for young talents to discover these moving stories within themselves too.


22 October 2016 Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company Barbican Theatre, London Reviewed by Nicholas Minns

“When we look at the body in finer and finer detail, can we find what we’re protecting? If we visualise searching right down amid the very marrow for the thingness of our body, can we find it? Attachment to one’s physical form is based on the body being a reliable, continuous entity. But can we pinpoint what we’re clinging to when we probe its depths?” – Pema Chödrön.


his quote from Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, is printed in the programme for Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company’s Interrupted, part of this year’s Dance Umbrella Festival. It is a text about attachment, the subject Mangaldas explores choreographically in seventyfive minutes of uninterrupted choreography. She and her six dancers appear and disappear, gather and disperse, disintegrate and re-form, interlock and unlock, yet all these contrasts form a series of scenes without borders, one merging into the next, each with a symbolism of its own that is carried in the movement. While Mangaldas set out to counter the temporal nature of life by resisting the notion of attachment, in the course of making the work she had to face the very nature of attachment she had set out to explore. Woven into the cloth of the work is thus the solitary thread of its imperfection. Mangaldas herself embodies this dynamic contradiction as she brings us into the fragile moment, “like any we might strive to hold on to…even if all is transient, all is flowing, and all is Inter-rupted.” Her

collaborators give Inter-rupted its aesthetic cohesion, it is the richness of the material ‒ Pema Chödrön’s ‘thingness’ ‒ and its interpretation that make the body-and-mind struggle to face its true nature a cause for celebration.

An East Wind

13 November 2016 SOAS Indian Dance Society, directed by Debanjali Biswas Part of Tower Hamlets’ Season of Bangla Drama Pinter Studio, Queen Mary, University of London Reviewed by Matthew Pritchard

Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou

dancers ‒ Karan Gangani, Minhaz, Aamrapali Bhandari, Anjana Singh, Sunny Shishodiya and Manoj Kumar ‒ move like a chorus that flows with and around her with virtuosic, firecracker footwork, vertiginous turning and a wonderfully lyrical use of gesture and voice. In addition to a recorded sound score by Sajid Akbar, the company is joined on stage by three gifted musicians ‒ Mohit Gangani on tabla and padhant, Ashish Gangani on pakhawaj and padhant, and Faraz Ahmed on vocals ‒ who punctuate the choreographic flow with, respectively, virtuosic rhythms and plaintive song. In some ways Inter-rupted is familiar territory; it is a journey of “exploring the past (of kathak) with a modern mind” that Akram Khan has been forging in this country for the last sixteen years. Khan, however, was born in England and has been working with an international cast of performers in a country that welcomes cross-cultural fertilisation as an expression of its identity; Mangaldas and her dancers have had to challenge the established norms of kathak from within its own cultural context. As she wrote in response to a question I asked her, this process “does raise debates in India but that makes the entire conversation alive and relevant. There is a growing appreciation of looking at our classical traditions in contemporary contexts and a huge appreciative viewership that encourages change. So the environment is quite vibrant with debate and interesting new directions.” Inter-rupted thus

resists tradition while remaining very much within it, a very different proposition to that of Khan; Mangaldas’s work looks refreshingly like the real thing. What makes the aesthetic of Inter-rupted familiar, perhaps, is that the production team includes some of Khan’s key figures he had introduced to Mangaldas nearly seven years ago, since when they have been working together on various productions: Farooq Chaudhry is listed as dramaturg, Fabiana Piccioli as lighting designer and Kimie Nakano designed the costumes. The confluence of Piccioli and set designer Manish Kansara ‒ a sculptor based in Delhi ‒ is visually stunning: an airy, three-sided space in shades of ochre that acts, depending on the lighting, as much like a large interior room as it does an undefined exterior space. The very opening shows a solitary man short of breath shaking uncontrollably in his room as he stares out at the audience, his body disintegrating until he recedes into the dark. Out of the dark we see the figure of Mangaldas slithering diagonally backwards through a shadowy, open space dragging a cloth that unwinds into a broad stream of material that she gathers in slowly and purposefully as six figures enter the space that becomes a room once again. Nakano’s evident understanding of and sensibility to kathak rhythms allows her costumes to breathe and flow with the movement while maintaining an ascetic, spiritual quality in which the work is painted. But while Mangaldas’s


hose who have attended a few Bengali song-anddance programmes, including those presenting themselves (justifiably or not) as ‘dance-dramas’, have doubtless also acquired a fairly sure sense of what to expect from these occasions. A richly-costumed dancer – usually solo, sometimes in a small ensemble – executes movements of fluid but reserved grace, illustrating the actions or natural scenery depicted in a Rabindrasangit delivered

blazing ‘comet’ (dhumketu) of Bangla literature to Rabindranath Tagore’s sun. SOAS students from the institution’s Indian Dance Society, now three years and four productions old, were directed with flair and precision – the more impressive considering half the group had no independent dance training – by Debanjali Biswas, currently writing her PhD on conflict and dance in Manipur at King’s College, London. Though the capacity of the Pinter Studio in Queen Mary’s English department was small, it was evident to those who looked on that the boldness of choreography and dramatic conception here would amply justify larger stages. The production’s twin themes of ‘revolution’ and ‘belonging’ inspired a weave of more traditional romantic and nature imagery with the abrupt impetus of political, even martial, determination. Nazrul was the ‘rebel poet’ (bidrohi kobi), a one-time soldier, revolutionary, political prisoner under the Raj and opponent of fundamentalist prejudice in all those forms (whether caste-, gender- or

Photo: Zahir Karodia

mellifluously by a singer sat behind a harmonium. The effect can be charming, and this kind of programme reliably satisfies a certain kind of Bengali audience, bringing together a community in celebration of the icons of its homeland. Ambitious, exacting or startlingly original are not, however, words that spring to mind. Yet they were the right adjectives to describe this particular Sunday evening of dance, inspired and accompanied by the songs, poems and spirit of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the proverbial

religion-based) that are now beginning to reassert themselves across the globe. It is a good time to be cultivating his robust, rebellious kind of sympathy. Yet merely transposing the physical repertoire of Rabindranritya or Tagore dance to the presentation of Nazrul is clearly not enough to show that side of him. Instead of reusing smoothed-out gestures borrowed from classical Manipuri, Debanjali danced out Nazrul’s poem Bidrohi (The Rebel) with menacing, invigorating choreography WINTER 2016 PULSE 23


derived from the Manipuri martial art thang-ta – a choice of influence aptly combining her two themes. And with a text filled with war-lust and weapons (even if some of them – Parashuram’s axe, Shiva’s trident – are mythological), why dance empty-handed? Here the whirl of cudgels, standing in for swords (thang), echoed the acrobatic spins of the dancer’s own body. Other sources of inspiration came from chhau dance, an energetic folk form shared between West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand, and from the insistent rhythms of Japanese taiko drumming. The formation of eight or nine dancers moved together in step to the drumbeat, repeating minimal, abstract gestures in unison, simply lit and dressed in almost uniform black, red and purple costumes. Words and melody became superfluous: we were fixed purely on the next strike of arm against air, stick against skin. Even in the more lyrical solo passages, the clichés of Bengali dance-drama were spurned in favour of subtle odissi (Tiyasha Dutta Paul) and neatly-executed bharatanatyam (Maanasa Visweswaran) made to ‘belong’ amicably to the context of the whole by emerging turnwise from the seated circle of the rest of the group. In place of distracting polychromatic lighting, we glimpsed sparse back-projected natural images moving behind the dancers – clouds spiralling and swelling in time-lapse, a boat struggling through heaving seas – derived from Nazrul’s texts (faultlessly recited both in Bengali and in English translation by Priyanka Basu, John Green and Shabana Charaniya). Musical accompaniment was no less carefully considered as part of the total effect. Shem Jarrold dextrously alternated sarangi and violin, a welcome relief from the otherwise ubiquitous Bengali combination of harmonium and electric keyboard, allowing the classical seasonal ragas Paraj Basant (Nazrul’s Elo oi bonante pagol boshonto) and Megh Malhar (the bandish Bijuri chamke barse) to blossom and flow in the voices of Dipanwita Ghosh, Shreya Sinha and Dripto Sarkar. As the finale of Mora jhonjhar moto uddam (‘We are as impetuous as the storm’) brought the rhythmic enthusiasm of Nazrul’s choruses to the fore, one could not help but be caught up 24 PULSE WINTER 2016

in the boundary-breaking energy that his work embodies – and which this exciting, forwardpointing production transmitted with exemplary force.

If I Could Reach Home

20 November 2016 Magdalen Gorringe and dancers Hexagon, mac, Birmingham Reviewed by Sanjeevini Dutta


f I Could Reach Home was created and performed by Magdalen Gorringe with dancers Lakshmi Srinivasan and Vidya Patel as an Akademi commission under the Choreogata scheme to develop choreographic voices. The final piece of the programme, it was the crescendo of the themes explored in the preceding items:

Venu, using Marathi lyrics, was charmingly set and danced by Lakshmi in light skipping steps with bharatanatyam’s stretched lines. The dancer was completely at her ease and her joy in submitting to Lord Vittal was infectious. Vidya changed the mood to sringar rasa as she evoked the heroine drawn to a midnight tryst despite the disastrous weather and the swollen river that she insists on crossing when refused by the boatman. Vidya’s skill and smoothness of execution made the dance completely self-explanatory. A tillana, created originally by Magdalen’s Guru Prakash Yaddagudde and danced by all four, concluded the first half. The second half profiled Magdalen’s work with community groups: four 12-year-

Lakshmi Srinivasan and Vidya Patel | Photo: Simon Richardson

longing, nostalgia, need for security and home. It was the choreographer’s response to the most pressing issue of our times – the flight of peoples from their homes to places of ‘security’. The format was conventional, with a first half of classical items performed by the three dancers and additionally by student Aishani Ghosh; and a second half of devised dances set to text and spoken rhythms. The switch between two halves of formallycostumed dancers performing set dances to community dancers in leggings and T-shirts is a transition that is never completely satisfactory, but one can understand the limitations of time and budgets on the creation of a truly cohesive hour-long show. The first half was enjoyable: the bhakti-inspired piece Vrindavani

olds (All Saints Youth Project) ably conveyed their affection for a favourite object, their words amplified by gestures and punctuated by cartwheels, which gave a flow and naturalness to their performance. I Told Everyone That He Won it From a Grabbing Machine touchingly refers to a teddy bear gift from grandad, casting him as a dubious hero as we learn that he bought the teddy at a car boot sale. No less affecting was the performance of the Rowheath Drama Workshop, which conjured images of warmth and security, told with humour and precision, with such simple and everyday feelings as ‘rainy day, guess I’ll stay in’. This contrasted with the nerve-wracking uncertainty of the residents seeking asylum in

the Hope Project. Three women dressed in simple skirts and blouses of black and red and cream and white hang washing on a line. One holds up a placard to let the audience know that the text and song are the residents’ own words and voices. Working in conjunction with a drama expert to elicit the writing, the choreographer is able to weave the words into the dance, the words becoming the dance as gesture and rhythm create a movement phrase and then join with other phrases to make a sequence, which is repeated in different formations. The first dance celebrates the nurturing power of womanhood with strong upper body movements synchronised, with repetitions creating a trance-like effect. The scents and flavours of the home left behind are evoked as Vidya, using kathak, lends an extra frisson as the showers bring out the smell of the soil in an African village. The scene of ‘waiting for that hopeful knock’ to bring a letter from the Home Office is a poignant variation on the heroine-waiting-for-the-lover theme. In the last scene, the violence that was the spur to the exile is shown, but the menace is lacking. Finally, the washingline cloths turn out to be the faces of refugees, including the all-too-familiar baby Aylan whose washed-up body off the beach in Turkey became the face of the Syrian refugee crisis. To convey the social and political web of entanglement responsible for the Syrian civil war is beyond the scope of dance. However, to present the viewpoint of some of those fleeing from its horror is laudable and the choreographer’s commitment to telling their stories shines through the work. The text is sensitive, poetic and musical and becomes the backbone of the drama. Performed in a somewhat cramped corner of mac, it became symbolic of the marginalisation of dance in the community. The delineation of emotions and subtleties of expression, whether by the pre-teens of All Saints or the integrated adult Rowheath Drama Group, could have filled and multiplied in a theatre space. Since the performance, Pulse is pleased to learn that the show will be touring next spring on the Alchemy Black Country Touring circuit.

Of gods and spices... Balbir Singh presents

Love & Spice Painting the Indian Gods Two new works from Balbir Singh Dance Company will soon be touring in a rich double bill that combines dance, storytelling, cooking and painting in a feast for all the senses. Taking Kathak as a starting point and bringing in musicians, a painter and a storyteller, Painting the Indian Gods carries the audience on a journey both figurative and abstract. Tales of Shiva the Destroyer of Evil and Krishna with his magical flute are brought to life by dancers, musicians, and an artist painting live on stage. In Love & Spice, a couple look back on their lives together, reliving key moments through memories of the meals they shared. With a chef cooking live on stage, the performance is suused with rich aromas. Annapoorna, goddess of food and nourishment, summons Krishna and Ganesh to help her cook a special meal in the kitchen, to try and bring back the couple’s lost senses, but what else will be rekindled along the way? These works continue BSDC’s explorations of traditional culture within a modern context; both incorporate a highly engaging narrative approach to make the work accessible to audiences unfamiliar with Indian traditions. A collaboration with BSDC Composer/Musician in Residence Jesse Bannister. Main image Malcolm Johnson; Painting image Nida Mozuraite

Kadam Pulse presents the Odissi Ensemble in Gods and Mortals, an evening of powerful and moving dance to soulful music. For the first time, UK-based musicians join the dancers to bring you classical dance with the freshness and spontaneity that only live music can provide. Elena Catalano, Katie Ryan, Maryam Shakiba and Kali Chandrasegaram make up the quartet of dancers with accompanying musicians Ranjana Ghatak (vocals), Parvati Rajamani (spoken rhythms), Gurdain Rayatt (percussion) and May Robertson (violin).

“collective unity and individual sense of style… engaging and rewarding… generosity of spirit” DonalD Hutera, Pulse Tour daTes april-July 2017 Saturday 8 April 2017 The Ganges Theatre, St Peters House, Bradford BD1 Sunday 5 May 2017 The Hat Factory, Luton LU1 Friday 12 May 2017 Sunderland Minster, SR1 Saturday 22 July 2017 Indika Festival Capstone Theatre, Liverpool (tbc)

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Beauty, depth and drama


Pulse 135 Winter 2016  

Pulse looks at the crucial contribution of lighting to enhance dance and to draw out its geometry and drama. Ian Abbot talks to choreograph...

Pulse 135 Winter 2016  

Pulse looks at the crucial contribution of lighting to enhance dance and to draw out its geometry and drama. Ian Abbot talks to choreograph...