Festival in the City of Joy
July 29, 2006
Blowing straight into the face of time
Like a storm-wind that will ring the freedom bell..."
What is it in change that always makes revolutions, breaks barriers, opens up silences, and ignites hope? Change streams forth a deluge of happening that purports to renew, rejuvenate and refresh the way in which minds think, people dream and hearts wish.
In its third year, INTERFACE, the INTERnational Festival of Alternative and Contemporary Expressions, continued to do just that, reinstill confidence in the connoisseur Kolkatan that a new era in the growth of the contemporary arts in the City of Joy has already begun.
the renowned experimental dance ensemble Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop,
INTERFACE 2006, held between 18th and 22nd of April, boasted of artistes
of excellence from France, Canada, USA, Japan and India; collaborators
of quality -Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre and CII- Young Indians, Kala
Bharati (Montreal), sponsors of profile like Ambuja Cement, ITC Sunfeast,
Karvy Group, Bengal Shrachi, Hiland, the French Association, Senco, SREI
and others; and a range of venues over Kolkata. Not least of the plethora
of events that were packed into the five-day cultural extravaganza.
The afternoon of 19th April saw a rare assemblage in the Max Mueller Bhavan auditorium. Some of the finest choreographers from India and abroad like Mamata Niyogi Nakra from Montreal, Shakti and Vasantamala from Japan, Anita Ratnam, Ananda Shankar Jayant, Alokananda Roy from India, along with media person Utpal Banerjee and Kolkata’s choicest dancers and an entourage of dance students as audience turned the first day event of Interface into a memorable occasion.
The evening was resplendent at festival partner Eastern Zonal Cutural Centre's venue, Bharatiyam, with Ananya Dance Theatre from USA followed by Kolkata's only participant in the festival, Dolly Basu and theatre group Chupkatha.
Ananya Dance Theatre proved feminism was ruling the day in Interface. In 'Bandh,' a brooding, powerful presentation by this company of women artistes, four performers of diverse ages and cultures, we found a celebration of womanhood, the "power of women dreaming" as Ananya terms it. In an art form popularly coming to be known as dance theatre, rich, bold coloured costumes, innovative costumes and makeup, and the use of bamboos in a play of light and shade was well-executed. While the movements seemed largely derivative of Odissi there was a hint of boredom in the music.
Chupkatha's play "Dui Taranga" was amazingly refreshing after the melancholy first half of the evening. In a crisp, witty repartesque style Nirmal Verma and Nabanita Debsen's tales found able expression in Dolly Basu's clear and stylish histrionics. Chandranath Chatterjee was equally capable as the stranger in the first piece while the second brought us to the eternal search of the author's search for a muse.
After this, the Interface guests were taken out on a date by long-time Sapphire patron Jiban Sen of Senco Jewellery Centre. In a fancy dinner organized at a posh city hotel, upcoming band Sree Om played an array of fusion tracks which made the guests get up and join in an impromptu improvisation which was magical and celebrated the true global spirit of Interface where artistes round the world could interact with each other like long-lost friends.
the airport on the next day, the 20th, Canadian duo, musician Martin Trudel
and flamenco dancer Rae Bowhay made instant contact with the odd group
of excited young dancers at Max Mueller Bhavan who were waiting for their
first brush with this stylish and rhythmic Spanish dance form. In a unique
workshop enlivened with ready music from Martin and practiced expert Flamenco
moves from Rae, there was a high level of energy flowing from all present.
A surprise was sprung on the group of arts enthusiasts thronging for the evening performance at Bharatiyam on the same day. The expectant audience waiting for the auditorium gates to open was greeted by a group of talented Sapphire members who indulged in a site-specific exploration in the Bharatiyam lobby. Dancers slid down banisters and leaped from stairways while others pirouetted and moved on the lobby floors. The mesmerized audience was hardly aware of the next experience that awaited them inside the hall.
Shakti and Vasantamala Dance Company from Japan was already the cynosure of Kolkata media for the eclectic legends that it brought with it. Uday Shankar's first Japanese student Yae Yamato or Vasantamala had brought Indian dance to Japan. Daughter Shakti born to an Indian father and a Japanese mother made the best of her parentage and straddled both cultures by majoring in Indian philosophy and studying modern dance with the likes of Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey.
Shakti's presentation "The Pillow Book" is in many words still indescribable for the trance-like quality that it created and the sheer magnificence of the performance. In a stylish powerhouse rendering of Sei Shonagon's world of courtesans and the overwhelming beauty and grace of nubile womanhood, supported ably by impeccable music and light design, and through the mediums of dance and live painting, Shakti delivered the point realistically and aesthetically, that passion is to be enjoyed for it is the creative fount of human existence. We hope that Kolkata artistes shall remember Shakti’s sheer energetic outburst of movement every time they go on stage.
and her team answered an awe-struck audience in the Q & A session,
the curtain was waiting to rise on another odyssey of creativity. A few
moments later, Mezcal Jazz Unit from France with Kolkata's very own tabla
maestro Bikram Ghosh was ready to create history.
Musically non-conformist, jazzy in the true sense, Mezcal believes in freedom in integration and fusion. The band boasts of a unique Mediterranean sound that introspects into Oriental, bursts into rock, and holds a Latin attitude in its free-flowing style. The widely traveled band complemented Bikram's stylish tabla in an appealing tapestry of sound that clearly won the hearts of the Kolkatans as they kept asking for more and more even as evening became night.
After a quiet dinner sponsored by SREI Infrastructure at Tangerine, the artistes were ready for another marathon day of events on the 21st.
It was interesting to note the wide variety of subjects that the festival touched in all its bustling activity. "Dance and the Child" was the topic of discussion at Oxford Bookstore on 21st afternoon and was widely attended by schools, which were already part of Sapphire's School Section Movement. Canada representatives of Dance and the Child International (DaCI), Dr Mamata Niyogi Nakra and her husband Bans Nakra were present along with dancer Priti Patel who has had wide experience in dealing with special children and theatre person Renu Roy who has organized several children's events.
Excerpts from Mamata Niyogi Nakra's child friendly module Shishu Sadhana were first displayed after which the discussion ensued bringing up the instrumental role that dance and the arts in general could play in the rounded and wholesome development of a child's mental and physical faculties and how especially relevant it was in the present world of stress and competition. The afternoon concluded with a child-friendly presentation by Sapphire's School Section members.
The evening audience at Bharatiyam was pleasantly surprised again to find young musical band Sree Om accompanying Sapphire members live as they improvised on the open space at Bharatiyam.
On stage, "Images of Change" by veteran and much-decorated Odissi performer Ileana Citaristi regaled audiences with two thought-provoking pieces. The first set to the famous poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou explored the conditions of slavery while the second was inspired by the ancient Chinese system of yin and yang. The rather unimaginative first composition was greatly overshadowed by the splendid second where Ileana and Nitin displayed symmetrical and asymmetrical choreographic patterns with ease. Now apart, now intertwined, back to back and crossed to front, the concept of characteristics of polarities in this world was beautifully explored.
Another international performance and with it another unique interdisciplinary presentation was up next by the team from Canada comprising of musician Martin Trudel, Flamenco dancer Rae Bowhay and renowned puppeteer and storyteller Pierre Renaud. While Shakti brought together a rare fusion of painting and dance, here was dance and puppetry set to live music.
Luna Luna, set to Federico Garcia Lorca's mysterious poem, brought together
legends of the moon coming down herself to take away dead children along
with somber moves by Rae dressed as the moon in a unique mask created by
Pierre. The presentation was intriguing if not faultless and a fine
on the last lap an enthusiastic group of connoisseurs assembled for the
open seminar at Max Mueller Bhavan where Ileana Citaristi, Utpal Banerjee
and educationist and dancer Urmimala Munshi came together to share their
outlook on contemporary art expressions with the audience. What followed
after this is again a slice of history, when 'Saradindu' happened. 'Saradindu,'
Pierre Renaud's unique creation, the Shiva look-alike life size puppet
with a smaller counterpart who moved his limbs aided by four Bharatanatyam
dancers of the city who displayed that constructed right and moved perfectly,
this puppet could recreate complicated Bharatanatyam repertoire on stage.
After a creatively fulfilling morning, it was time for the final event of the festival, the CII- Young Indians event at Science City Auditorium. While Mezcal Jazz Unit, Sapphire and the Canadian duo took stage once more to enthrall Kolkatans for the last time, hearts bled as we all realized that the five-day frenzied cultivation of the contemporary arts was over.
ended with a vote of thanks by the directors to all who had contributed
to make the festival a resounding success. Let us all wish Interface to
shine as a bright beacon in the East beckoning the world of arts to join
hands to link the arts, to link people, to break barriers, and unite in
Bidisha Chatterjee is a feature journalist of Sangbad Pratidin, one of the leading newspapers of West Bengal and contributes regularly in feature and art pages of its supplements.