By Prof. Sehdev Kumar
TORONTO: If the imaginative and captivating range of expressions in the show Alchemy is any indication of new Indian dances, then surely something very innovative and creative is in the making in the dance scene in Canada.
Presented recently by Sampradaya Dance Creations at Enwave Theatre in the Habourfront Centre in Toronto, Alchemy brought together choreographers and dancers from England, Belgium, India and Canada, all trained and honed in Indian classical dances Kathak or Bhartanatyam or Chhau.
What they presented was ‘classical’ and modern, traditional and contemporary, deeply grounded but reaching out in all directions.
In the hands of a truly creative spirit, no art form – poetry, painting, sculpture, dance or architecture – can stay bound by rules of its grammar, or its classicism; it wants to touch all that it sees, hears, imagines. That is how art soars; words take flight; paint spills in and around the canvas; a dancer moves in spaces that have lain hidden and unexplored for so long.
So it was for the dancers in this captivating show Alchemy; at every move, in one dance piece after another, there was a stepping out of something already quite well-known, and stepping into something unknown, something tantalizing, something at the edge.
Something beyond the edge. That’s what made ‘Stealth’ – a piece created by Indian choreographer Santosh Nair – so pulsate with palpable vitality. Nair is rooted in martial dance form of Chhau, but here he has transformed his bold moves into something delicate and probing.
In the same manner, Belgium Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, in his piece ‘Constellation’ and England’s Russell Maliphant in ‘Cut’ integrate light, sounds and dance movements in exciting new ways, making each one of them integral to their artistic vision.
In our new globalized world, with the movement of people, ideas, arts across geographical and mental borders, something new was – and is – bound to happen. Same stories are told differently. New narratives emerge. New and unexpected ways of telling them are taking root. There are new perspectives, new nuances.
Certainly dance as an art form – of movement of body on a stage – is now supplemented by new elements in hundred imaginative ways: by lights, by words, sounds and music, by moving images, by new costumes and sets. All of these elements and many more are part of the ‘choreography’. They have given to the artist many more freedoms of expression, but they have also made every work a collaboration, a joint work together.
Once, the word ‘Fusion’ suggested the coming together of the traditional with the contemporary, but with the loss of one or the other. ‘Alchemy’ indicates something new altogether; a new synthesis, and new synergy.
That is how pieces like ‘Rising’ by Aakash Odedra, and ‘In the Shadow of Man’ by Akran Khan and ‘Bridges’ by Natasha Bakht seem to break new grounds.
It is to the great credit of Lata Pada, the Artistic Director of Sampradya Dance Creations, that Toronto could witness the innovative and vital works of these very accomplished dancers and choreographers from many lands who are all still rooted in the Indian classical dances.
(Prof. Sehdev Kumar lectures on International Films in the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto)