Jaipur Diary


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).


The domed ceiling of JKK

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.


Field by Tabea Martin

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!

Let’s Take a Collective Jump!

Preethi Athreya‘s Condition of Carriage on 16th October brought a stunning end to the Delhi phase of IGNITE! 2016.


In this work, Preethi and her team together search for an “honest, functional body” and the visual as well as intellectual power of its raw physicality, and in that process they address various politics associated with it. For example, through its almost gender-neutral treatment of the body, but with slight conscious tweaking, it plays with or against cliched readings of gendered bodies.


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A Dancing Girl

Rajyashree Ramamurthi


What do I know about the Dancing Girl statuette from Mohenjo-Daro?
– That it is a small bronze figurine of a pubescent girl wearing bangles and some jewellery in what seemed to me as a predecessor of the odissi tribhanga stance.
– That it was just assumed that she is a dancing girl because of her posture and adornment.
– That Gregory Possehl – an archaeologist – called it “the most captivating piece of art from the Indus site”.
Captivating, it must have been for choreographer and performer Sujata Goel; enough to inspire her to develop the full length work – titled the same – that was featured on Saturday 15, October at the contemporary dance festival – IGNITE!

Engulfed in darkness, you wait in silence for the work to approach. And then…
You see what resembles an arrow head parallel to the floor pointing stage left. It is the bent elbow joint but almost before you have time to figure out which part of the dancer’s body it maybe, you are sealed in darkness once again. The next time you see two mounds about a foot and half off the ground that meet, creating an angle and opening out into a triangular structure towards the ground.

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The Thought-Provoking Defects of the Victimized Body

Performer Kalyanee Mulay, along with Vishnuprad Barve, has choreographed unSeen as a statement of dissent. Her on-stage statements address problems which are relevant in our present gendered world. But interestingly, at IGNITE! 2016, on the evening of Friday the 14th, her poignant performance came with its own set of problems, which are part of interesting debates within the politics of expression, creation, activism and art.


Kalyanee is trained in theater forms and her body is not a dancer’s body in the traditional sense; this is a tradition which is not only classical but also contemporary. In fact, everyday body-shaming in India is probably more of a present-day truth than fifty years earlier, thanks also to the current self-projective consumerist lifestyle and the Western aesthetic hierarchy—simplistically put.

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Brilliance at the Expense of His Sleep

Nimmy Raphel’s Nidravathwam—or for that matter Nimmy Raphael herself as a performer—has a rare quality of unwavering strength. Not just her ability of almost holding the audience at her fingertip, but the sheer physical strength of her large, strong, muscular body which has gone through extensive training of Kalaripayattu, Kathakali, Yoga and other physical practices—some of it originating as part of the ongoing research on performative physicality and emotionality at Adishakti, where she has worked for years.


It’s one of those performances that one watches with gaping mouth, while consciously letting one’s critical thoughts sort of wander off the auditorium.

Though she spices it up with brilliant gestural quirks and silly (but heartbreaking!) humour, and though it also falls under a mild stereotype that Adishakti has created as their own space in the Indian contemporary performance world, the piece steps beyond the boundaries of its limitations, when Nimmy throws questions at the audience on behalf of Kumbhakarna—her protagonist: “Am I awake? Or am I asleep dreaming of my death?” or “…I would sleep for fourteen years? Or I would sleep my fourteen years’ sleep on one night?” It then sends a chill to the spine of the audience, whom the questions are addressed to.


Photography: Sidharth, Sharan

A Delicious Masterclass

Sujata Goel’s masterclass was possibly the only moment in the festival so far that could be labeled as ‘good fun’, at the same time introducing the participants to serious choreographic ideas.


Seven participants played games based on tasks regarding contact and compositions, as she conducted the session. It was a delicious two hours at the middle of the festival cum conference hullaboo. Just clean, crunchy thoughts about the body and its creations. What were the recipes behind this deliciousness?

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The Unity Myth

Can a person become five at the same time? Can five become one? Dancer/Choreographer Daniel Kok presented Cheerleader of Europe at IGNITE! 2016 to question the myths around the concept of unity, integrity and their power politics.


Daniel’s questions are on the most apparent level directed at the European countries as to how they perceive unity. Dramaturgically, he breaks his performance into two major factions. One, when he is imitating a performative approach in order to establish statements, by largely using irony as a tool in his physical and facial expressions as well as his dialogues, which take up the form of either rap songs or slogans or army commands.


Two, when he delves into a more casual conversational mode — even personal narratives. In fact, a personal narrative is what he starts his performance with — already making a very debatable political statement with that.

The first approach is directly satirical in its implementation of stereotypes of gender and race — both physically and verbally.


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While @Gati…

IGNITE! 2016, based on the theme of Form, Identity and Dissent, is running. Anyone who has organized a festival of this dimension can vouch for how physically and mentally taxing this could be for the organizers! This week is a high-strung one at Oddbird Theater for the Gati Dance Forum team.


A battle is on between the vibes of the constant preparation, the fatigue that comes with it, and the cheerfulness which is inherent to the team.

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So some of them decide to take a breath of fresh air on this morning and visit their spiritual and professional home @Gati…

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…to vent it all out thorough spending a bit of time for themselves while also waiting for today’s first program–Vinaykumar‘s master class,…

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Claiming the Gendered Public Space

The program on October 10th, 2016 at IGNITE! held at Oddbird Theater was a lot about claiming the public space. For example it started with the film screening of the dance film SPEAR that spoke largely about Australian aboriginal men finding the meaning of their life on everyday urban streets.

The two short performances that followed the screening, spoke volumes about the same topic, in a very interesting way.



Let us view these two performances in the light of questions around the gendered performing body and the aesthetic associations that we make with it. The ongoing exhibition in the same venue with images from choreographer Chandralekha’s works in fact made these performances even more interesting to watch, with photos verging on eroticism portraying male dancers in close contact on one side, and photos depicting the Yoni with women dancers at provocative angles.

Keeping at par with Deluge, which was performed on the 9th at the same space by Rajan Rathore with Anpu Verkey’s film based on urban decay, Deepak Kurki Sivaswamy and Manju Sharma’s choreographies: NH7 and Rush Hour visited similar topics on streets and everyday life with their physical and visual representations, and highlighted their multiple hierarchies.



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