M.V.Narasimhachari & M.Vasanthalakshmi express their impression of the seminar on choreography at the Natya Kala Conference 2001 conducted by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha and convened by Anita Ratnam. 

The topic for the seminar was ‘Choreography – the art of making Dances’. 

January 2002

Convened by Anita Ratnam, the entire seminar was well organized with the speakers ranging from experienced old –timers to the fledgling choreographers of the present. 

Each and every one of them had something to offer.  

The concept of ‘Space- inner, outer and the cosmic, Auchitya or appropriateness, the place of abhinaya and rhythm in choreography, glimpses of the ‘further soil’, the theatrical approach, the dynamics of group choreography, the principles of Laban technique so on and so forth. All of these threw a lot of light on the varied aspects of the comprehensive term ‘choreography’. 

Some showed the myriad possibilities within the frame -work of the classical idiom while others stressed on the freedom required in giving expression to an inner experience. 

Choreography - then and now 
The term ‘choreography’ seems to have been introduced by Lefeuillet in1699. Choreography, in the context of ballet referred to the system of describing the dances with the help of specific signs for the steps. This was to be written alongside the melodies.  In the present day context, it is understood as the visual composition of the ballet. 

The Greek word ‘Choreo’ stood for chorus or a group of singers assisting the main actors of a play. Remaining in the background, the role of these singers was to supplement, reinforce and establish the mood or the rasa of the dramatic production. 

Composing and choreography are often treated as synonyms but a closer observation of the two terms will make one realize that they actually are not. In fact, while the act of composing is a constituent aspect of choreography, the latter encompasses a lot more. 

Choreography - The wider perspective 
Even though the term choreography may be relatively new to the Indian context, the role of the choreographer is certainly not. 

The choreographer of the ancient Indian theatre functioned in a multifaceted capacity. He ensured a smooth flow and a harmonious blend of events and worked out a strategy that optimized the establishment and realization of rasa. The person who played this key role was called the ‘Sootra dhaara’ or one who holds and pulls the strings. 

All of us are familiar with the different aspects of nritta and abhinaya. In the realm of music we have the dual aspects known as the Kalpita and the Manodharma sangita or the composed and extempore aspects of music. Similarly, the art of choreography too demands, in addition to the finished version of a production, an ‘extra space’ that would enable the artiste to improvise on the spot. This includes on the spot additions and deletions to the existing composition. The resultant success of this modification is directly in proportion with the capacity of the artiste to feel the pulse of the audience. As opposed to ‘choreography’, the word ‘composed’ refers to a finished product and therefore does not admit this ‘extra space’.  

The highlight of the seminar: 
The purpose of the seminar was to understand the term ‘choreography’ in all its limitations as well as expanse. When it was time to conclude, naturally several questions were raised: some were answered, some argued over, while others remained intact. 

While all the papers were well thought-out and presented, two presentations that came with a difference were ‘Choreography work-shops for special needs’ by Astad Deboo and ‘Revealed by Fire’ by Lata Pada. 

These two productions made the difference in their definition of the ultimate goal of art. 
Time and again Indian scholars have stressed on the true purpose of the fine arts. These are to enable the human beings to live richer and fuller lives experiencing, sharing and spreading the delight of a meaningful existence. The first one called for the choreographic skills required in being sensitive to the special needs of the hearing impaired. The second one showed the tragic circumstances under which the protagonist had lost her dear ones and her subsequent struggle in coming to terms with that terrible loss. Although this was the starting point, the ‘sahridaya’ in the audience was very quickly transported to a higher, unifying realm where he began empathizing with the artiste. Soon after, it was as though both the artiste and the audience were absorbed in the rasaanubhava losing in the process, their individual identity. 

The message that came through both these productions was loud and clear. It revealed the role of art in one’s life as the healer, the guru or the guiding force and above all a true friend. 

May the art of choreography expand a million-fold if need be, in realization of this sublime goal. 

M.V.Narasimhachari & M.Vasantha Lakshmi  
Founder Directors  
The Kalasamarpana Foundation  
New # 30 Murray's Gate Road 
Alwarpet, Chennai  600 018  
Ph: 499 0319 / 467 0408 
e-mail: chari@md2.vsnl.net.in