After the action in Delhi, we packed up the dance floor and got on a bus to Jaipur.
This was a first for all of us at IGNITE. In travelling to Jaipur with a two-day satellite festival, featuring three performances, masterclasses and meet-the-artist sessions, we were hoping to take contemporary dance to new audiences and new spaces. Our hosts in Jaipur were Jawahar Kala Kendra (JKK), which is a space designed by Charles Correa (and we are huge fans).
In the choice of pieces that travelled to Jaipur, we thought at length about how we were choosing to represent ‘contemporary dance’. There was Nidravathwam, where an imagined dialogue on sleep between Kumbhakarna and Lakshmana becomes a foil for a physicality emerging from kalari and choreographer-performer Nimmy Raphel’s mastery over the navarasas. Field, by the Swiss choreographer Tabea Martin, bestows a pedestrian quality on its danced movement, with the three dancers almost seeming to mark their paces as they suggest an immense attachment to each other, and then, a gradual disaffection. Preethi Athreya’s Conditions of Carriage: The Jumping Project, has ten dancers jumping in unison. They are synchronised, they keep to the rhythm, yet they refuse to let you think of what they do as dance. They pound the floor defiantly, displaying resistance and dissent.
None of these pieces were ‘dance’ in its most common iteration, where a group of individuals performed highly skilled movements, possibly to music, enabling a certain visual and aural harmony. We were apprehensive about how the festival, with its focus on form, identity and dissent, would be received in Jaipur, a city so close to us yet one we know little about. It was heartening to see audiences throng the venue, buying tickets to watch these performances, and staying for the meet-the-artist sessions where their curiosity was evident in the kinds of questions they asked the choreographers.
There were performances that evoked mixed reactions, sparking off debates about representation and artistic freedom. What stays with us, though, was that these conversations were had, debates sparked and thoughts provoked. It is one way of knowing that the festival triggered fresh questions and new ways of reading dance for the audience in Jaipur.
This was a bold move for us, and none of this would be possible without JKK’s unrelenting belief in the curatorial imagination of the festival. To present these performances in the way they were envisioned by the choreographers took effort, determination and a great deal of nerve. And the team at JKK had all of these in tremendous measure, every step of the way. Thank you, JKK, for your commitment to the contemporary arts.
Here’s to more IGNITE! satellites in Jaipur, and in places unexplored!