Shobana: Fusion is an under-valued term

Jun 02, 2016, 08:35 IST | Suprita Mitter

As she readies to present her latest production to Mumbai's dance lovers, the stunning Shobana discusses the city where interestingly, she performed her first ever dance

 Q. How much has changed in the classical scenario since you started?
A. Lots. There are more mediums available to showcase talent in a multi-screen world. Today, I see Classical dance performed by a flash mob too. The ever-changing world offers tons of opportunities.

Q. Take us back to your first performance. What was it like?
A. Coincidentally, my first performance, where I accompanied my guru Chitra Visweswaran was in Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall in 1990. It was grand and glamorous. I played a tree and flowing water.

Q. You hail from the family of the Travancore sisters...
A. I’m their niece. The Travancore sisters were trained classically and were idols in their days. Their classical dance and acting prowess is legendary.

Q. What has your experience of performing in Mumbai been like?
A. Mumbai has a fantastic audience — eclectic, discerning and open to different collab orations and appreciative of classical art. I performed at Kala Ghoda recently and there, there was an audience I won’t forget.

Q. How did the idea of your latest production, Dancing Drums come about?
A. As a storyteller, there are several mediums to use and convey a narrative. In the past, I have used characters, epic tales, poetry and rasa (emotion). However, in all mediums, the narrative is fixed because of the lyrics or the emotional quality of the melody. In rhythm, because of the inherent abstraction, the interpretative possibilities are more, but that also makes the work challenging. In Dancing Drums, I interweave all mediums into what I like to call a ‘trance’. We have choreographed for a wide canvas of ethos, transcending religious boundaries. Six students from my dance school, Kalarpana, will be joining me on stage along with four musicians who will play live at the 90-minute performance.

Q. Do you enjoy fusion?
A. Fusion is an under-valued term. It’s an experience of understanding art that you are not trained in. It is a discovery of how and what you can contribute to an existing and trusted energy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I enjoy it as long as I am motivated by the music.

Q. What forms does Bharatanatyam work best with?
A. Bharatanatyam is one of the few classical forms that works with different languages because of its code of communication. It can communicate almost any situation, dialogue or mood. Most instruments can be worked with, like the cello for example. I even enacted parts of the Mahabharata to Vivaldi’s music, once. The grandeur of both compositions complimented each other. The now prevalent form of classical Bharatanatyam is still best performed with traditional instruments.

Q. You have performed live with many maestros including Zakir Hussain, Vikku Vinayakram and Mandolin Srinivas. What challenges do you face when performing with them?
A. It’s a learning process. Most artistes don’t get into a performance where they will be challenged! I get into these highly volatile creative situations only after studying their music to some level. The challenge there is to swallow your ego.

Q. Are you a dancer first or an actress?
A. I need to know acting first and then use that in my dance.

Q. Will we see you on the silver screen soon?
A. If I’m not too big for it and if the silver is good.

Q. What advice would you give young students who want to take up classical dance?
A. Making a career of classical dance is like choosing any other artistic career. It depends on how good you are, landing the right opportunities, how convinced you are that this is the right career for you, and luck. If you make a career of it, you are living your dream while others pursue it with a more ‘dependable’ career on the side.

On: Today, 7.45 pm
At: Nehru Centre Auditorium, Discovery of India Building, Worli.
Call: 24964676
For tickets Log to: (also available at the venue)
Cost: Rs 250 to Rs 1,000

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