Contemporary dance arrived in the silicon city of Bangalore. Brainchild of Jaychandran, founder of the Attakalari, the biennial festival bags big sponsors to mount a ten-day celebration of dance.
Attakalari’s India Biennial 2009 opened with a ‘bang’ in the south Indian city of Bangalore on February 6th. The opening event of this international contemporary dance festival had a carnival-like atmosphere, with high-tech video projections and special lighting effects, large carnival-style costumes, live digital and acoustic music, and artists from around the world performing a variety of styles from kalari to kathak, and folk to flamenco. With twenty-one performances by three hundred artists representing twenty countries and five continents, the Attakalari Festival was a truly global feast of contemporary movement arts.
The festival, the initiative of Bangalore-based Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts and its founder and Artistic Director, Jayachandran Palazhy, is a trailblazer in the Indian contemporary dance scene. The fifth edition of the festival has been the biggest in terms of the number of artists and productions staged.
It showcased not only the work of established and emerging contemporary performing artists from India but also from South Korea, Switzerland, Burkina Faso, Spain, UK, Canada, US, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Portugal.
Premiered at the festival was Attakalari’s new multimedia production Chronotopia which brought together artists from eight countries. Thomas Dotzler from Sweden did the lighting design; Christian Ziegler from Germany organised the digital imagery and Frenchman Mathias Duplessy composed some of the music with carnatic musicians from Bangalore.
Belgium-based choreographer Moya Michael choreographed a duet for local dancers Diya Naidu and Hema Bharathy Palani where the nuances of their o.wn physicality were free to emerge within the structure of the choreography.
Kalpana Raghuraman from Holland and Serge Aimé Coulibaly from Burkina Faso presented a triple bill in which they examined themes of social exclusion and ‘otherness’ in In Between Skin, Minimini and I Lost My English.
Pushed by Padmini Chettur (perhaps India’s best-known international contemporary dancer) included six Indian dancers, with music composed by Dutchman Maarten Visser, and featuring Korean musicians.
Samir Akika’s production E.T.E. – Extended Teenage Era – was staged by an eclectic group of dancers and collaborators from South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America.
The festival presented a variety of dance and movement techniques and genres. The CcadO dance theatre group from South Korea staged their multi-media mystery-drama, Murder in the Elevator combining dance movements and theatre techniques, and featuring horizontal and vertical imagery of landscapes and music oscillating between contemporary techno-beats and classical music.
The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble presented an example of choreography using odissi classical dance vocabulary to articulate contemporary themes. Nrityagram’s choreographer Surupa Sen says “Contemporary is a sensibility. You can have a contemporary sensibility and do classical dance. Which is what I think we do, simply because we belong to this time.”
The festival staged two performances simultaneously each evening at different venues. The audience had to choose and some inevitably missed out on some thrilling events. Each day also saw performances in the city’s public spaces. A moving escalator in a busy shopping mall amid weekend shoppers became the stage for the Nritarutya Collective. Choreographed by local dancer Veena Basavarajaiah, this was the perfect setting for a piece addressing the themes of economic crisis and modern living. Unfortunately for security reasons, the dancers were relegated to the stairs and not the escalator! Meanwhile, customers at a local beauty parlour found themselves in the midst of a performance by the Shiri Dance Company on the theme of pain and beauty.
The festival also hosted screenings of dance films and documentaries. A highlight was the picturesque and evocative film on Mohiniattam, La Danse de l’enchanteresse, a co-production between renowned Kerala filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan and well-known French Mohiniattam dancer Brigitte Chataignier, which won the documentary prize at the 1st International Audiovisual Festival of Performing Arts in Lisbon in 2008. With little dialogue, the stunning imagery and exquisite music spoke louder than words.
And on the fringes, master-classes and workshops gave people opportunities to take part in a dizzying variety of movement arts like hip hop/new style, b-boying, funkstyle and floorworks.
Artists, filmmakers and philosophers also exchanged ideas through seminars on aspects of the performing arts, including emerging trends, body and image, process, thought and technology. Looking ahead, the organisers hope to have more funding from organisations in India and abroad to continue to develop contemporary dance in Bangalore.