Category Archives: Impulse

What came first: the choreography or the music?

Hofesh Shechter, recognised as one of the UK’s most exciting contemporary artists, talks about the creative process.

That’s the first question I’m always asked; there is no simple answer to what is a very complex and to some extent random process of creating a dance and music piece. What makes it even more complex and surprising is the number and variety of people I work with to create the piece. I want to concentrate on that aspect when answering this question today.

This time, Political Mother, I have an idea — a drum loop that drives us forward, that keeps a train of rhythm that carries us down the rabbit hole. My first instinct is to steal a groove from a Peter Gabriel song — so I do. Yaron and I are sitting in the working room recording it on what is left from my old drum kit, it sounds rough, as usual I didn’t record it on a metronome click — great — that sounds real, like something you found left down the street. This miserable recording grew into what now sounds like ‘the end of the world’. Peter himself wouldn’t know it was inspired by him, and the way it sounds now I‘m not sure he’d want to.

During the whole of January the dancers are forced to hear ‘the end of the world’ loop over and over again for at least four or five hours a day without any additions or decorations — it’s an absolute sketch. Something about the sound and the atmosphere it commands inspires us. At that point it feels enough. After a few weeks enough is enough, and something about how the choreography grows in complexity demands proportional response in the music. Time for me to sing over the drum loop to define the colour of the waves the strings will bring about. I’m imagining a late afternoon in some desert city with an old Egyptian band of stings — when I say old I mean they are old, they all probably have cigarettes hanging from their lips while playing and a glass of arak within reach. I’m thinking big wavy unisons. And then I’m singing.

Next phase — Nell. I’m sending her some MP3 files by email of my singing (she’s used to that… and it does take getting used to) and she starts to record sketches of these ‘songs’ and sends them back to me, but now they are of course magical, haunting viola sounds like only Nell can create. After a few days we meet up to record the lines over and over and over again and here you go that’s my Egyptian band. We then decide to play around a bit and Nell improvises in ‘the spirit of’ and as always comes up with some genius beautiful phrases. Meanwhile in the studio with the dancers we work with a different loop.

My passion for low frequencies creates a decision between me and Nell to gather ‘the dream team’, a group of string players who I first met when we created and toured In your rooms (none are Egyptian but they play pretty well all the same), for a recording session. Again I’m exposing my singing to them — it’s unbelievable how the quality of delivering a musical line can give it its heart and body. When they play it I’m in that dusty bar in the desert. We record everything including some extraordinary improvisation sessions (on that second loop the poor old dancers are still working on) and I leave with a rich and colourful collection of sounds — that will give me a lot to play with when I’m back alone with my laptop.

Then there are many long days of trying this, trying that, in the studio with this part, with that part… sounds are flying in and out, movements are appearing and disappearing. And then suddenly the band arrives. Yaron and I are having some preparation meetings to what the drummer performers will play. I’m telling him what I want, we’re chatting about how will be best to achieve it, then we play a bit, then it’s no good, then we try again and it’s no good again, and so on an so forth until I feel it’s right. I’m sending Yaron home with quite a few bars missing… well I guess that’s the meaning of the words trust and friendship. Then there are the electric guitars. That’s a story for another day.

In the last couple of weeks of creation a lot of important things happen — now everything is here, all the movements, the sections, the musicians, the dancers, the emotions, the ideas, the sounds the instruments… it’s all there and it’s a game of choice. What’s in and what’s out and when. And how. It’s the moment where all this information, the sounds and the movements settle in together.

By that point I can’t really remember any more what came first. It really doesn’t matter.

For more information on the Hofesh Shechter tour in India click on this link

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Swapnokalpa Dasgupta: Dance and Disability

Artists before the show Miracle On Wheels dance performance on Wheel chairs by Ability Unlimited at Tata Theatre,NCPA on 07/06/2013. Photo by : NARENDRA DANGIYASwapnokalpa Dasgupta: ‘My experiences with disabled children completely changed the way I looked at dance.’

As Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, Head of Dance Programming, at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai, prepares to participate in the Unlimited festival at the Southbank Centre (2nd – 7th September), she shares her experience of working with disabled dancers and how perceptions towards disability in India is changing.

Disability and dance: a different mode of expression and appreciation of physicality

My background is in Science and Education and I am also an Indian classical dancer. I did my teaching qualification in India and worked in the UK as a teaching assistant in various schools and Special Education units around London I began to see how I could use dance in an educational setting and the particular impact it had on the disabled children. Dance allowed them a different mode of expression and appreciation of their physicality.

These experiences have stayed with me and I am really excited about the potential of disability arts programmes in India. The dance department at the NCPA started to work with disabled performers last year. The response from the audiences was incredible; we have realised that there really is an appetite for disability arts. We are now aiming to curate a festival for disabled dancers in the near future as we think this would be a great way to showcase their talent and share their experiences with more people.

Changing perceptions

Traditionally, it has been taught that Indian classical dance is the reserve of the able bodied and this was how I was conditioned to think from my classical training. However, my experiences with disabled children completely changed the way I looked at dance. I began to see that dance was not a competitive sport where one should strive for perfection. Nor is dance an end-result; it is the process that is important. I realised how powerful dance was as a medium of expression and thus is a birth right of every individual.

More investment needed

People’s perceptions of disabled dancers are slowly changing in India, as we have seen more disabled performers on our TV screens and in our theatres. However, disabled performers are still held back from achieving their full potential as there is not enough investment or support for their training. Generally in India, when disabled people tend to come from lower socio-economic backgrounds and attain lower educational standards, it is even more important that there is investment in scholarship schemes, for example, in order to address this imbalance.

Read more about disability arts

Find out more about Unlimited

Read an interview with Ruth Gould, artistic director of DaDaFestand chair of the commission panel for the Unlimited festival. She talks about how arts can change perceptions of what D/deaf and disabled people can do.

Post by: Emer Coyle

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An impulse to dance. Again

Hofesh Shechter Company: Political Mother

Hofesh Shechter Company: Political Mother

We’re set to go. Over the next three months India will be enjoying the best of contemporary dance from the UK. Not just by watching the performances which are a rare treat, but also by interacting with performers through a range of activities planned with dance organisations in India and young people across the country, including workshops, master classes and networking events.

All this is part of Impulse 2, the British Council’s new season of contemporary dance. The season is built around 15 performances by leading UK dance companies — Hofesh Shechter Company, Scottish Dance Theatre and Avant Garde Dance.

The first series of performances — Political Mother by Hofesh Shechter Company — brings the sound and feel of a rock concert with gritty, fast-moving visual movements and is described as “especially appealing for young people (14+) because of its fast moving, highly physical choreography”. Watching this video would definitely make anyone agree.

The tour launches in Hyderabad on 5 September and travels to Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai. Find out more about show dates at www.britishcouncil.in/impulse2.

In October, the Scottish Dance Theatre, Scotland’s national contemporary dance company, returns to India (they were here as part of Impulse held in 2012 along with Akram Khan Company, Aakash Odedra Company, Protein and Champloo, where we took contemporary UK dance to seven cities over eight months). The tour will be from 1-11 October 2014 and the performances will be held in Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata.

In November, we have Avant Garde Dance, a London based company pushing the boundaries of hip-hop and contemporary dance. The tour will be from 1-21 November 2014 and the performances will be held in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai.

Lots to look forward to. Follow this blog if you want to keep abreast of everything that’s happening around Impulse 2. And do send in your comments and thoughts.

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Akram Khan Company India Tour 2012; by Farooq Chaudhry

In September 2012, Akram Khan Company undertook a six-city tour of India with its dance production Gnosis. The company performed in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. The tour was a partnership between Akram Khan Company, the British Council and the Prakriti Foundation in India. It was an intense schedule whereby the company spent three days in each city – a travel day, technical set up day and performance day. It was Akram Khan’s first tour to India after a gap of nine years. The programme was a balance of classical kathak and modern dance. After the success of Akram’s section in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and his ever-increasing status as an internationally renowned artist, the expectations in India were high.

When the company first toured India in 2003, the audience was of an affluent high status fashionable crowd, as such one gets at major opera houses in Europe. This time around the audience was much more diverse. It was great to see many young people, students, and established and fledgling artists. The audience was much more knowledgeable and enthusiastic than previously, and it was an immense pleasure to share our work with them. They were more in line with the audience demographics we get in London and Europe, and
it was very reassuring to see how India is embracing more contemporary expression and accepting the fact that it is more relevant to its evolving culture. In my opinion, Gnosis performance has attracted more attention because it was a mixed programme of classical and contemporary dance, Akram’s enhanced status and the programme was part of a touring festival arranged by Prakriti foundation. All venues were suitable for showcasing our work though there still remain issues over the availability of good quality technical resources.

Akram and I conducted workshops as part of the programme. Arts managers and artists mainly attended the workshops. That’s no surprise because of the workshop programme focusing on dance producing and dance creating. It was a real mix of experienced professionals and those who have just entered the market. I believe the expectations of those that attended were realistic and it was an enjoyable experience to share processes with those who were hungry to learn. As I said earlier the primary expectations of participants was to understand how they could develop their own creative process, rethink the best models for managing their organisations, being better leaders and thinking how best their work could be positioned and developed in the context of a “market.”

We did not really have time to establish any collaborative opportunities on the tour apart from hiring a local musician who appeared to learn a lot from working with Akram and his company. We did however meet with a very promising young choreographer called Deepak Shivaswamy. He had just won a choreography award and we decided to support him by inviting and paying for him to attend a creative process with Akram in Europe and to mentor him through the creation of a new work he is making. Aside from Deepak we met many
talented artists and we certainly sense the tour has paved the way for future collaborations.

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Scottish Dance Theatre and us – an experience we will never forget.

By – Mokshaa Akkamma Kuttayya, Class 12, Abacus Montessori School, Chennai

Part of a Scottish Theatre group from Dundee in Scotland worked with us for about an hour and fifteen minutes. The energy in them and their enthusiasm was contagious and all of us participated actively. They made us do some movements to loosen up and we also played some games that involved these movements. They then split us into groups and made us draw patterns on the floor across the room and also use the movements from earlier in the pattern. We also had to be coordinated within one group and use signs from each other as cue to change movements. At the end of the session they performed a small part of their piece for us in which energy they had was quite mind blowing.

Overall it was an amazing experience because none of us had ever attended any workshop or session like it. Everybody enjoyed it, even the boys (which is saying something, although they will deny it). It was interesting to see the way a dance/ theatre group works and their style of dancing was really vibrant and refreshing.

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It’s that time of the season again

It is hard to forget the buzz, the busy-ness and the excitement of the Akram Khan tour. 17 days on the road and boy – what a ride it was! It has been 3 weeks since we all came back from the buzz and before we know it – it is that time again.

While we are getting to grips with workshops, talk sessions, sorting the dance mats, sorting the rehearsal spaces, pre-rigs and what not, Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) is packing their bags for a smooth landing in Chennai next Thursday. They are a very enthusiastic bunch – a whole range of workshops and showcases await them and they are asking for more. If there ever was a packed schedule for a company, SDT’s schedule would beat that hands down.

They start their tour with workshops with school kids, dancers, under privileged children, special needs children and their teachers; a lecture demonstration with school teachers and talk sessions with technical teams. They bring acclaimed choreographies of James Wilton, Hofesh Shechter and Liv Lorent and we are just waiting in anticipation to feast on the performances.

I know it is going to be double manic – just considering the strength of the team and the places they have to be in. i know it is going to be double hectic – but I also know it is going to be fun like all the rest has been. Something about arts and its environment –the most serious problems are fun to solve, the missed meals don’t affect our bodies and even the latest late nights are fun to be lived! Cannot wait to get more action… see you guys around!

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17 days on the road, 6 cities, 4,700 direct audience, 15,000 online reach – and a success story named Akram Khan Company India Tour 2012

Impulse, our season of contemporary dance from UK, kicked off with a 6 city tour by Akram Khan Company. After opening the London Olympics this year, Akram Khan and his company brought down their work – Gnosis – to India which is based on an episode from Mahabharata. The tour encompassed showcases and talks by Akram Khan and Farooq Chaudhry on choreographic inspirations and the business of dance respectively.

 

Akram was accompanied on stage by guest artist Fang-Yi Sheu from Taipei and 5 exceptional musicians on Cello, Percussions, Violin and Vocals. As much as the choreography needs to be appreciated, the live music needs much more appreciation as that sets the mood in place and adds more depth to the performance. The show was an audio visual marvel – with graceful dancing, soulful music and exceptional play of lights.

 

All of us who worked on the project, could not help getting emotional during the opening show in Chennai and after seeing the response. The freight not reaching on time, lights being brought in from Amsterdam, dance floors, media, the magnificence of the technicals – all were worth it!

 

The emotional complexity of Akram’s work talked through and the audience felt the pain, turmoil and rebellion of the characters. It was no wonder then that the audiences all over the country graced the shows with packed houses, standing ovations and cheers, much to the delight of the company.

 

Where Chennai saw a full turnout on a rainy evening, Hyderabad saw a full turnout on a day when dance recitals by famous Indian artists were happening in the city simultaneously. Bangalore and Kolkata were eager to witness the splendour of Gnosis; Mumbai and New Delhi saw who’s who of the dance and theatre world show up to witness the sensation that is Akram Khan.

 

The talks along with the showcases, were very well received by the dance fraternity – as can be seen by the participation. It was good to listen to the producer – choreographer duo as they discussed about the dreams, aspirations, business of a dancer and dance.

 

Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi audiences would never have had such a treat before.  And this is just the beginning ….

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Impulse – a new movement in dance

season of UK Contemporary dance

Impulse – the influence of a particular feeling or mental state. What better word to describe a dynamic, versatile season of dance. A season that explores all the avenues of dance and dance performance including the process of putting together a production.

Performance, teaching, artistic connections and building relationships. All of these are key factors in “impulse”.

Right from the conceptualisation stage to the launch and process, impulse has resembled a flexible rubber ball, bending and shifting shape to accept and incorporate new ideas, thoughts and processes in the field of contemporary dance.

A unique opportunity for young dancers, choreographers and arts organisations to meet, interact with and learn from established and world renowned contemporary dancers from the UK, impulse is setting the trend for a new movement in dance in India. The time is ripe for change and growth in the dance sector in India and impulse comes at the right time to feed and nurture young minds in contemporary dance.

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