The ‘Political’ Dancing Body

How do you spot the ‘political’ dancing body? Does it strike a pose? Is it likely to jump? Does it favour stillness? What are its views on endurance?

How is this sentiment articulated – is it a politic, is it being political, or is it to politicise?

In posing these questions, the IGNITE! Festival of Contemporary Dance, in its 4th edition, encourages a reading of dance practice through the lens of form, identity and dissent. These tropes are reflected in practice, in the choices artists make – to belong, represent, appropriate, assert or deny. Simultaneously, form, identity and dissent ask tough questions of society. With a quasi-grammatical tenacity, they chip away at nouns, breaking them into verbs, demanding that we act, think, pursue, examine and provoke. That we physicalise provocation. They moor the dancing body in a floating nexus of people, places and power.

Over eight days, IGNITE! plunges headlong into these concerns. The exhibition of archival material from the life and times of Chandralekha lies at the heart of the festival. The performances address urbanisation, ethnocentrism and more, offering critiques of society and questioning the act of performance itself in this process. #INTERSECT complicates this further, by adding an interdisciplinary negotiation to performance making. Through the conference, the dancing body has a voice of its own, standing out from the multiple discourses that it is subject to. And finally, a new generation of critical voices in dance writing speaks out in the book, Tilt Pause Shift: Dance Ecologies in India, which is to be launched at the festival.

In keeping with its objective of taking dance beyond metropolitan cities, for the very first time, IGNITE! travels to Jaipur with a two-day satellite festival, hosted at Jawahar Kala Kendra, an arts space designed by Charles Correa. The satellite festival brings a tightly curated selection of the IGNITE! works to Jaipur, structuring masterclasses and meet the artist sessions around the performances to deepen the audience’s engagement with artistic concerns emerging from contemporary dance practice. Taking IGNITE! to Jaipur is the first step towards decentralising dance practice and performance by building partnerships that take IGNITE! to tier 2 and tier 3 cities, showcasing local performance and scholarship and asking fresh questions.

Therefore, what does one do on encountering the ‘political’ dancing body? You have to be at the IGNITE! Festival of Contemporary Dance 2016 to find out.

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