Follow us

Marg launches its Contemporary Dance issue
- Carol Andrade

October 31, 2017

Leela Venkataraman, Astad Deboo, Joris Dierckx (CEO of BNP Paribas)
Photo: Amit Kumar
That contemporary dance in India remains a form very hard to categorise or indeed, even describe, was driven home with greater emphasis than ever at the Black Box, G54 Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Mumbai recently.

After all, what is it that binds a Japanese ballet dancer moving to a raga of love, loss and yearning, to a puppeteer who effaces himself so completely as to recreate a new self, and a pair of dancers (one who is hearing impaired) who move in complex designs that both complement and confront, interacting so perfectly together as to transcend their separate parts to create a perfect whole.

The occasion was the launch of Volume 68 of Marg, the well-known magazine of the Arts, jointly edited by India’s foremost contemporary dancer Astad Deboo and  Dr. Ketu H  Katrak of the Department of Drama, University of California,  on October 9. In attendance were afficionados, supporters and plain lovers of dance in all its forms, eager to see what was on offer in the magazine as well as the short (too short!) offering of several forms of the genre, specially curated for the occasion by Deboo himself. Nor were they disappointed.

As chief guest and keynote speaker, dance critic Leela Venkataraman suggested, the jury is still out on what constitutes Contemporary Dance which allows for a varied range of style, movement and even opinion, going by what is on offer anywhere in the world. However, if it is to be understood as a fusion of traditional and modern dance form, contemporary dance has been evolving for a very long time with each age revealing some who were willing to experiment with and overlay old styles with new narratives.

Editor and art historian at Marg, Naman Ahuja, also spoke on the significance of the publication of the special issue and the need to revisit the subject so as to keep it before the eyes of the public, as did Deboo himself, swiftly touching upon various aspects of the contemporary dance scene in India vis a vis the world and outlining the contents of the magazine with its introductory section with articles by eminent practitioners like Ranjana Dave, Vikram Iyengar, Ramaa Bharadvaj and Dr. Anita Ratnam. The rest of the magazine is divided into two segments, titled Pedagogy, Performance, Festivals, and Looking Ahead. It is, of course rich with visuals on every page, making the magazine itself a collector’s item.

Following the launch, there were the performances, beginning with a short film on Japanese dancer Eriko Sugmura using balletic movement to bring alive Raga Nadanamakriya sung by Aruna Sairam. Next up was Delhi puppeteer Shamsul who defied identity and form to create something completely new yet recognizably familiar. But it was Avantika Bahl and her hearing impaired partner Vishal Sarvaiya who perhaps made the greatest impression, with their virtuoso understanding of choreographed perfection, where synchronized movements allowed at times for harmony and at other times for confrontation, with never a move out of place. All this in complete silence, no words, no music. The show was concluded with a signature performance from Astad himself, and when he swept into his now signature sufi twirling for long minutes, you could hear a pin drop. At his sudden stop, the audience drew a collective breath before breaking into sustained applause. It was over.