I Approach Dance Through Music’s Window: Geeta Chandran
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – She says one can approach dance through various windows — hers is music. That her body will move only with music. “I was amazed when Merce Cunningham, a renowned American choreographer said that in his process, he created movement without music. His music collaborator – John Cage – would create a track for the timing that Merce’s choreography demanded. And it was only at the final performance that the dancers would be exposed to the music. I find that mind-blowing. I could never do that or be there. To me, the entire choreography and movement dictionary happen only when the music satiates my imagination. These are all different ways of approaching work,” says dancer Geeta Chandran, recipient of the Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi honors, who is also a trained musician.
Chandran, who was a co-curator during the recently concluded Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa that featured Dr. Anita Ratnam’s ‘Naachiyar Next’, Santosh Nair’s ‘Game of Dice’ and Dadi Pudumjee’s ‘Rumiyana’, says she was extremely cautious in programming considering classical dance is a difficult universe to curate, especially when the focus audience is young, hip, and roaring. “Dance comes from a different edge of the performing spectrum, especially classical dance. So, this time round, I was testing the waters for myself.”
Stressing that threshold of excellence is rather missing in many government and private festivals where coteries and politics keep the best away from being showcased, she adds, at SAF, the curators have complete independence to pursue their vision and the structure supports their vision. “I am diffident about commenting on replicating this in other smaller towns simply because the infrastructure required for such superb and quality programming will have to be created from scratch.”
Chandran, who founded ‘Natya Vriksha’ in 1991, with a view to tweak Bharatanatyam teaching/learning pedagogy, says it is an experiment that has worked well. “It is a lab where I explore the widest range of classical dance issues that have engaged my focus: Exploring linkages between body and mind; forging relationships between solo dancing, group dancing, and choreography; actualizing the connects between the artist and society; and using dance as a medium for expressing abstract notions of joy, beauty, values, aspirations, myth, and spirituality.”
Admitting that visual art curation in India has matured in the past decade or so, but curation in the field of other arts is in its infancy with curators “promoting friends and friends of friends”, Chandran feels professional ethics in curation is a work in progress in this country.
“But curation is even one step removed from a bigger need – and that is of professional event managers who can manage artists and their art. Like software professionals twenty years ago, this is a sector that is crying to boom,” she says.
Talking about the Covid-19 pandemic, Chandran opines, “It showed us the deep vulnerabilities of the arts sector — lack of sustained financial patronage, insurance policies and healthcare packages for artists etc. Not to mention, it unleashed the added burden of technology… Artists had to acquire new tools and skills at a time when they could not even afford their bread and butter.”