Whether structured or otherwise, dance is an endearing physical manifestation of the soul. To enjoy the underlying commonality of dance forms across the globe is one thing, but to be oblivious to their differences would deny us of the myriad enthralling experiences they offer. And what a shame that would be!
What is Contemporary Dance?
Combining the elements of several genres including modern, jazz, lyrical and classical ballet, contemporary dance has no boundaries albeit it is not synonymous with chaos. Often titled as a radical break from the traditional ground rules, it stresses on versatility, improvisation and bare feet floor work. Pioneered by Merce Cunningham, Pina Bausch and Maurice Bejart to name a few, contemporary dance is a twentieth century phenomenon that moulds art, music, imagery and fashion to reflect upon relevant issues.
Contemporary Dance in India
India wasn’t immune to this Cultural Revolution. The Father of Modern Dance in India, Uday Shankar was responsible for laying the foundation of contemporary dance in India in the 1920s. His world famous ballets were unique combinations of classical Indian dance forms, tribal dances and elements inspired from the West.
As it should, contemporary dancing has evolved ever since, branching out into varied styles. The Danceworx Company, Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, The Tagore School of Dance are few of the many flourishing schools that are pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance to produce works unique to India and are garnering global acclaim.
The Illustrious Torchbearers
Considered a pioneer of modern dance in India, Padma Sri Awardee, Astad Deboo fuses Kathak and Kathakali to create a dance form that is unique to him. This Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee has extensively toured the world, staging creations that have garnered international acclaim.
Terence Lewis needs no introduction. From running his Contemporary Dance Company to creating Jugnee (an Indo-Contemporary Dance Festival), Terence has worked relentlessly to popularize the dance form. Whether it is choreographing Bollywood hits such as Lagaan or extravagant musicals like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Terence has developed a unique style that appeals to the purists and masses alike. As he rightly says, “If you want to take your message to the masses, then let the message be yours but in a language they understand.”
With over 30 years of involvement in theatre and dance, Ashley Lobo has worked with world famous choreographers. An alumnus of the Bodenweiser Dance Centre and Sydney Dance Company, he is the founder of The Danceworx Company that trains 5500 students across India. He is also a guest faculty at National School of Drama and Barry John’s IMAGO School of Theatre Studies.
Known for her instinctive precision, Preethi Athreya is deftly layered dancer. Trained in Bharatanatyam for several years, her choreography is nuanced with a vivid description that shows dance is not always the sum of its parts. There is a constant comic tragedy theme in the background of her creations that leave you with irrevocable inarticulate emotions.
New York trained Madhu Nataraj was on her way to establish a reasonably strong career in the States when she came back home with a vision to start a unique dance company aiming at the creation of a distinctive contemporary Indian dance identity. Having produced 75 thought provoking, distinctive choreographic works in the 16 year existence of her company, Natya STEM Dance Kampni, she is often invited to perform across India, U.K, Australia, New Zealand, UAE, Europe and USA.
Acclaimed dancer-choreographer Mandeep Raikhy’s creations rely heavily on poking the most uncomfortable inner fears through uncertain, intense choreography. His take on the complex question of what masculinity, stands to be the most acclaimed work till date. Through visual, aural and sensual markers, Raikhy creates quite the stir and anticipation in the most subtle ways, leaving his audiences wanting for more.