Watch celebrated dancer-choreographer Anita Ratnam inaugural performance in the city
Ahead of her show, celebrated dancer-choreographer Anita Ratnam tells us what contemporary dance means to her and why Mumbai is home to some of the best artistes in the genre
On a phone call from Chennai, Anita Ratnam seems worried about the incessant rains that have been lashing the city for over a week. She has a flight to catch to be in Mumbai the next day, for her inaugural performance at the NCPA's Contemporary Dance Season, 2017. But it isn't just about her performance. The accomplished dancer, choreographer and scholar is as much a keen audience member as she is a performer.
Anita Ratnam in Prism
"Dancers must come to watch other dancers. While classical forms like Bharatanatyam are limited to certain areas like Chembur, Sion and Matunga in Mumbai, the city has the most thriving contemporary dance scene in the country. Which is why we have names like Astad Deboo who call it home. I also appreciate the work of Sanjukta Wagh and Yuki Ellias," says Ratnam, 63, who has over 1,300 performances in 37 countries to her credit, in a career spanning four decades.
So, what does contemporary dance mean to her? "We have adopted the nomenclature from the west. Essentially, contemporary dance is the experiments and discoveries that classically trained artistes are making [to forge a new path]," Ratnam explains. One such discovery is Ratnam's Neo Bharatam, which borrows from the Bharatanatyam vocabulary, but is more universal in nature. Suited for a mature body, the form celebrates age and the experience that comes with it. "I wonder why dancers, when they mature, want to look young. How does one remain relevant in a society that's obsessed with youth and air-brushed beauty? Neo Bharatam hopes to answer that," she says.
Outside India, however, it is Bollywood that has come to symbolise contemporary dance from the country, says Ratnam, which is a hotchpotch of styles without any roots in classical forms. "But things are changing. It is an exciting time for contemporary dance in India, which is looking at a sunrise moment," she shares.
Sequences from a performance of Padme
The month-long dance season she is coming here for is a case in point. The festival opens with two performances by Ratnam's troupe and a solo performance by her. While Vortext is an energetic performance using percussive rhythms from Kerala, Padme draws from the dual life of the lotus - calm on the surface, with movement and sludge underneath. The latter has been choreographed by The Netherlands-based choreographer Kalpana Raghuraman. Ratnam's solo, Prism, is part autobiographical. "With a minimal sound design using meditative sounds, it's a woman's journey of struggle and pain," she explains. "If I am a feminist artiste, I have to walk the talk through my work."
On November 9, 7 pm
At Experimental Theatre, NCPA.
Call : 22824567
Entry Rs 200 onwards (plus GST)