21st Natyakala Conference - 2001
Chennai, India
Concluding day special
WHAT IS CHOREOGRAPHY? WHAT IS INNOVATION? WHAT IS CONTEMPORARY? WHAT IS DANCE?

On December 21, 2001, the concluding day of the 21st Natya Kala Conference on "Choreography: The art of making dances", hosted by the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in Chennai, the convenor Anita Ratnam threw open 4 posers to the gathering. Headed by various facilitators, each group held a 10-minute discussion and came up with their idea of the topics as per their perspective. The summary of this novel exercise appears now as an important documentation of the views of a wide spectrum of a global audience belonging to different age groups, ranging from dance gurus, critics, performers and the general public.

ASTAD DEBOO
Choreography:
It is the process of selection with a view to achieving a goal, the goal being the carrying across to another, a message or idea, which is born from within the choreographer. A single choreography has several choreographers, some animate, some inanimate. On the opening day, a senior guru made an unforgivable comment, saying that nattuvanars never did any choreography, it's only from Uday Shankar choreography took birth. This point is to be really discussed.

Innovation:
It is the birth of a thought, which is creative in the sense, which has not been done or seen before in that format. Innovation depends on the viewers also.

Contemporary:
Whatever is dance today, whether it's traditional or modern or innovative.

Dance:
Dance is movement, which creates in the viewers an emotion, a feeling, a thought.

CV CHANDRASEKHAR and group
Choreography:
It's a concept of movement. Choreography is subjective and does not really have to communicate something to a spectator. It can leave the spectator to draw his own conclusions, something like watching an Impressionist painting. The painter depicts his ideas and each spectator interprets the painting according to his vision.

Innovation:
It's an extension of any possible movement already conceived to give it a different perspective.

Contemporary:
Contemporary ideas are subjective and depend on time. So, time is a main factor. What was contemporary when I was 20, what was contemporary when I was 50, what is contemporary when I am 65, is very different as it depends on the time when these ideas originated. Every traditional item, when it is danced, to that dancer it is contemporary at that moment. Doing a Kalyani jatiswaram 50 years back and doing the same thing now is contemporary as far as that particular dance is concerned, for dancers are learning it anew. They finally feel that it's not really important to have a dialogue between tradition and contemporary.

Dance:
It's very physical. There's nothing new to discover it's only different perspective.

RAJIKA PURI and group
Choreography:
· Both collective ideas and in some way having your own vision. One person communicates the collective thought of a group, that person takes responsibility for what is performed. It is important to reflect group ideas and get feedback from the group.
· Can be group or solo. It's a journey, the process of having an idea and putting it into movement.
· Creating movements that express and communicate an idea.
· It should be reflective of an art form.

Innovation:
· New movement. Of coining new hastas in order to express an idea. The idea could be old and made to look new. Or a new perspective of a tradition / dance /movement.
· To be innovative, the movement must reflect the new idea or perspective, not just a coining or joining of old things.

Contemporary:
· A reaction to the classical. (i.e. it is a relative term with reference to classical / traditional).
· Something that is relevant to the present day context.
· Usually represents an individual vision.

Dance:
· A conscious movement of body used to express an idea or emotion, which follows the aesthetic tradition of a culture.
· By extension, 'dance' can be seen in animals. It's any movement in nature that seems to follow some proportionate principles.
M V NARASIMHACHARI and group
Choreography:
· Bones of an idea assembled to form.
· It needs coordination of movement and sound.
· Represents all the forms of a piece.
· Fundamental philosophy underlying the framework of choreography is subject to change according to time and space.

Innovation:
Reinterpretation of an idea / theme etc as different perspective or dimension.

Contemporary:
· No division between traditional / contemporary. It should be about dance. Technique gets in the way.
· Vision looking forward.
· What starts out as contemporary becomes tradition.
· Organic origins.

Dance:
· Coordinated movement.
· Motivated by rhythm, idea. It's spontaneous.
· Outer expression of your inner emotions / environment.

DIPANKER MUKHERJEE and group
Choreography:
· Arrangement of dance.
· In the Indian context, it's solo.
· Group of emotion.
· Dance design.
· Defining parameters of a new idea.
· Balancing 4 abhinayas - Aangika, vaachika, aaharya and satvika.
· Deliberate / spontaneous.
· Process of approach.
· Path.

Innovation:
· Create a feeling of newness.
· Freshness of individual.
· It is individual.
· Understanding it from your own context.
· Breaking out from basic building block.
· Invent a new intra - form.
· There are 2 types of innovation - brick layering, sculpting.
· Packaging is new.
· Like Wordsworth who wanted to make familiar into unfamiliar. Or like Coleridge to make unfamiliar into familiar.

Contemporary:
· Improvisation is contemporary.
· Something at that point of time.
· Present is contemporary.
· Exploring hybrid dance form.
· Shifting of focus.
· Frame is different.
· In the moment - specific time period.
· Interpretation of time.
· Reflects present time.
· Personal.
· At times, narcissistic. A lot of 'I' is there, you see yourself in the mirror and no one else around.

Dance:
· Emotion and idea. These have to be conveyed.
· Not entertainment. Not circus.
· More than shared entertainment.
· Communication through organised movement.
· Joy of something.
· State of poetry.
· Poetry in motion.
· Not restricted to stage. An animal walking or jumping across a field could also be poetic and can therefore be termed dance.

G NARENDRA
Choreography:
It should be a concept and should be conceived accordingly. Like music, dance and all of it has to be choreographed and it has TO MEAN SOMETHING TO ME.

Innovation:
It is another side of creativity.

Contemporary:
It is whatever is being done at the present with themes, which were not ventured earlier. Firstly, I have difficulties with so called contemporary dancers when they say they are not being understood. When we say we don't understand what you are doing, they say we don't try to understand. If we don't want to understand, why would we attend their performances? So, it's their responsibility to make us understand.Everything cannot be understood. Even in Bharatanatyam, there are things we may not understand, but it is OK as we must atleast enjoy it.
Ann Moradian, in her lec/dem said it's non communicative to her. If a dancer says such a thing, why go on stage, or perform?
Krishnaveni akka in her lec/dem said athai (Rukmini Devi) had her contemporary ideas 35 years back itself. It's true for those days. When she could accept contemporary ideas, why do the present Kalakshetra not accept contemporary ideas without generalising?
Why is the contemporary idea being hyped up? Is contemporary dancing out of compulsion because people want something new? Could it be that most Bharatanatyam dancers are mediocre?
The so-called contemporary dancers saying nasty things about Bharatanatyam dancers are unwarranted. Likewise Bharatanatyam dancers calling contemporary dancing as 'kandapadi' (unaesthetic) dance is unwarranted.

Dance:
We have to have angika, vachika, aharya and satvika abhinaya, or atleast angika abhinaya. Everyone cannot have all four, but importantly, atleast angika abhinaya should be there.

LATA PADA and group
Choreography:
Still not sure of the meaning. Is it recreation? Is it rearrangement? Is it reinterpretation? Is it dance with other elements like sets or new costumes?

Innovation:
· It can go as far as it wants to as long as aesthetics is preserved.
· The terminology is confusing. Is it reorganisation of musicians? Is it within tradition? Is it changes in costuming? Is it new movement?

Contemporary:
Every stage of life is a combination of stylization and idealism. The proportion between the two change according to the particular socio-historic period and social acceptance and individual expression.

Dance:
Everything breathes. Dance must be expressed to be understood easily.

SREELATHA VINOD and group
Choreography:
The use of music, dance, time and space to establish an idea with right aesthetics.

Innovation:
Is it rediscovery of something that is already existing or giving a new name to something not quite understood?

Contemporary:
Contemporary vs modern..is there a difference? Is it the evolution and the present form of dance or is it the modern dance based on other techniques and infusing it into your own?

Dance:
Expression of life itself presented in a stylised form.

NICHOLAS ROWE
Choreography:
The process of the selection of images and the selection of the focus on these images.

Innovation:
Any process motivated by a question.

Contemporary:
Anything existing or coming into existence this instant.

Dance:
Any extraneous movement.

ASHISH KHOKAR and group
Choreography:
Placing objects or displacing movements in a given space. Interacting with other actors or imagined characters in that space. Threading a thematic sequence in that space over certain time.

Innovation:
· Creating that which is different from existing practice. Good or bad.
· Innovation in subject. Innovation in technique. 'Thimmaka' was an innovation in subject. A little story in a newspaper has become such a beautiful piece. Innovation in technique is like taking Bharatanatyam and moving it to further change which probably 15 years from now will become part of the tradition.

Contemporary:
Tradition can be contemporary. But modern is modern. There can be contemporary response to a tradition in every field like food, clothes, dance and music. It is the contemporary response in that field at that time. But modern is modern. The 2 languages are totally different.

Dance:
· Movement. Orchestrated movement. Symmetry.
· When you have anything to communicate, it is dance.
· In India, dance is the visual of music - maybe in classical it is giving movement to shows in pure dance and expressing of 'garbhiartha' or hidden meaning in abhinaya.
· In broader sense, any movement with a purpose.
· That which has the potential to put something across is dance.

A SESHAN
Choreography:
It is the art of making dance.
It is a continuum.
The Tanjore Quartette were the first choreographers.
We have conventional and modern choreography.