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Beyond the stage

Updated on: 27 April,2019 07:38 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Snigdha Hasan |

The first edition of a new series, which brings together two artistes to share their journeys and struggles, will see Astad Deboo and Dashana Jhaveri in conversation

Beyond the stage

Astad Deboo; (right) Darshana Jhaveri

"Dance is essentially perceived as a spectacle, but for me, it is transformation. And achieving that one moment of transformation on the stage requires years of work," says kathak artiste Sanjukta Wagh. But this personal journey of an artiste often remains in the dark for the audience, who buy tickets to a performance, watch it and see the artiste again only at the next show.

It was with this idea of sharing the process before and after a performance that Wagh co-founded the interdisciplinary initiative, Beej, in 2005. Parallel Journeys is a new series of conversations curated by Beej, which will see two artistes come together to offer an insight into their professional trajectory, their evolution as practitioners of an art form, and their struggles. "We believe that the performance is only a part of the journey, while 90 per cent of it is the process. We wanted to start conversations around the process," says Wagh.

Arundhathi Subramaniam and Sanjukta Wagh
Arundhathi Subramaniam and Sanjukta Wagh

And sharing this process for the inaugural edition are renowned contemporary dancer and choreographer Astad Deboo, and leading exponent of Manipuri dance Darshana Jhaveri. Poet and dance critic Arundhathi Subramaniam will steer the conversation. "The two artistes are contemporaries, who have been diverse journeys. While Darshana ji is the youngest of four Gujarati sisters who headed to Manipur and put the dance form on the map of India, Mr Deboo learnt Kathakali and contemporary dance, backpacking around the globe, and then came up with his own form," adds Wagh.

In these parallel journeys, Deboo highlights a point of intersection. "Darshana went to Manipur years ago, brought its traditional dance form into the mainstream, and supported and patronised it. In my case, I went there decades later, attracted and fascinated by the martial art practice of the state, in which I found a great potential to use in my choreography," he explains, speaking of his work with Manipuri drummers, the newest choreography in the offing being one based on Mahatma Gandhi's quotes, which will premiere by the end of the year.

It wasn't easy, however, to get the gurus of the martial art form to open up to someone from a contemporary dance background, Deboo shares. But seeing their technique showcased in a dance form and not as a martial art demonstration struck a chord. For Jhaveri, not being from Manipur too came with its set of challenges. What propelled her to embrace its art form and nurture it will be a part of the conversation.

With their experience spanning decades, Wagh likens this session to an alternative historical archive, a way of documenting the socio-cultural histories of dance in the Indian subcontinent. "Imagine witnessing the evolution of their dance forms from the pre-Independence era through the eyes of Mr Deboo and Darshana ji. For International Dance Day [April 29], we couldn't think of a better tribute."

On April 30, 6.30pm
At Alliance Française de Bombay, Churchgate.
Call 22035993

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