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Astad Deboo gives space a new dimension
Lalitha Venkat speaks to Astad in Chennai


August 19, 2003

In India after a hectic month's schedule in Indonesia, Astad Deboo, was in Chennai to perform with the Clarke School's Sadhana Troupe of Deaf Dancers. Astad took an hour off his busy schedule to talk about his Indonesian experiences.
The workshop:
I was invited by Kelola, an arts management which invited me to conduct an intensive 10 day workshop with 17 young Indonesian choreographers hailing from all over Indonesia like Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Sumatra, Yogyakarta, Solo, Jakarata and Bali. These young choreographers are now creating their works using their traditional dance techniques.

In the past, we were always looking to the west when we were trying to create and step out of our own traditional vocabulary. But now we have realized the richness in our own traditions. One of the reasons for my being invited was to show them how I have taken from my own classical traditions and techniques that I have studied, and imbibed them into my vocabulary, to introduce them to my work, and also to help create an awareness of how they could use their traditional techniques and create a new vocabulary.
Dancing in water:
The workshop took place in Solo. One of the points I covered in the workshop was how to use space and how to bring it effectively alive. To demonstrate this, I performed at the house of designer Yusman Saswandi. The house was exciting to work in. The space I used was a big pool 30' by 25' having 2' deep water. In the pool were strategically placed columns and rocks. I did a 3-part work, working in different areas, and eventually ending the last part in the water itself.

Dancing on the balcony:
In the Jakarta Art Festival, I performed at the new theater Taman Ismail Marzuki. They had a very interesting balcony. One of my works is called Stepping Out to the music of Gert Anklam. I used that space and danced on the edge of that balcony which went all around the theatre. There again, I demonstrated that using the space and giving it a different dimension can bring the space alive with the work.

Dancing around an installation:
I did a collaborative work in Bandung with a very well known Indonesian painter and sculptor Sunaryo who has his own museum of his collection. It is a very active gallery, which does workshops for visual artistes, invites writers… they get funding from Kelola, the arts management group that invited me to conduct this workshop. They have a very interesting arena theatre on the premises. When I went for my first meeting, the artist saw my photographs and he was impressed. He did a special installation for me and I wove my dance into that space.

Collaborations in India:
Apart from the Thang-ta artistes, I am working with the pung cholom drummers of Manipur with whom I have been working for the past 5 years. We have been developing and evolving work, where I have the drummers not only playing on the drums, but also using their drums as props and making them move to my music - they do not play the drum but use the drum as a prop. I am also working with some Chhau dancers whom I have identified in Delhi.

Astad can be contacted at astaddeboo@hotmail.com.