by Anitha, Bangalore  

November, 2001

Stem Dance Theatre, one among India's leading contemporary dance groups presented Sankalan - an evening of Indian contemporary dance, featuring excerpts of their recent productions, on October 26 & 27 at the Alliance Francaise. Using motifs of traditional and contemporary dance forms, Stem's dancers created stimulatingly different imagery.  

The performance included Monochrome - inspired by the jazz idiom, exploring juxtapositions in space and time as the dancers moved to intricate rhythm patterns, shifting from 9 to 6 to 4. Aalaap a pure dance piece had dancers improvising over a basic drone working on a pattern similar to the raga development in Carnatic music. In Upaj set to Taufiq Qureshi's music and dedicated to all Gurus (which was premiered during Sankalan), tradition met modernity, just as Ustaad Allahrakha's bols mingle with his son Taufiq Qureshi's contemporary interpretation.  

The fourth piece Men will be Boys performed by Balaji and Janardhan was a, lighthearted dance sequence reflecting the vibrant and playful energy of STEM’S male dancers. The penultimate piece was an excerpt from Khoriya – a full-length production premiered by Stem Dance Theatre in collaboration with the Hengasara Hakkina Sanga in June 2000. The title refers to singing and dancing session of women in the Northern and Western regions of India. Often women gather in a courtyard and seated in a circle, take turns to share their stories through music and dance. In STEM'S production, women gather and share their individual experiences, exploring manifold facets of feminism, femininity and sexuality using an interdisciplinary and multi cultural approach to dance.  The narrative section of the excerpt chronicles the story of a girl as she goes through a whole gamut of confrontations, fear and suppression when she faces a reverse patriarchal system after living in a sheltered environment. In both the relationships her identity is dictated to her and she feels the need to find herself.  

The evening concluded with Taraana, which celebrates the beauty of the human form. Set in Raga Shankara to a 16 beat time cycle, the choreography and the music blend elements of the Flamenco and Kathak. A special feature of the Taraana was the Jugalbandhi or friendly competition amongst the dancers. The dancers included Madhu Nataraj Heri, Brinda Jacob,Anitha Santhanam, Shabari Yusufi, Aparna Kolar, Balaji and Janardhan. Sankalan was choreographed by Madhu Nataraj Heri the director of STEM and the music was composed by renowned jazz guitarist Amit Heri. 

STEM Dance Theatre is a well-known performing unit committed to create and share traditional and contemporary dance experiences. The dancers at STEM train in modern dance techniques, yoga, classical dance, martial arts and mime to develop a unique movement vocabulary. Stem has pioneered a new movement in Indian Contemporary dance and has performed to large appreciative audiences at prestigious National Dance Festivals in India & abroad.