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Building bridges through dance

Vanessa Mirza, Director, Dance Bridges Festival, Kolkata, India 2015, writes about her experience of organising a multi-dimensional dance festival in Kolkata. The British Council was one of many partners of the festival, which concluded recently. 

The Dance Bridges Festival. Photo by Tanaya Bhattacharya

The Dance Bridges Festival. Photo by Tanaya Bhattacharya

The Dance Bridges Festival is a new initiative for dance and the performing arts in Kolkata by Dance Alliance Kolkata. The theme: “Talking Points in Choreography; Dialogues Across Cultures” emerged from a personal curiosity as a choreographer to know more about the creative process of different artists and how cultural influences affect choreographic works.

In curating performances for the Festival, I selected works that highlight this individuality and specificity, sometimes in subtle ways in others more overtly. Artists for the Festival included Van Huynh Company (UK), Anarchy Dance Theatre (Taiwan), I-Fen Tung (Taiwan), Sydney Skov (USA), Janet Reed (USA),Tomas Danielis (Austria), Rocio Berenguer (France), Prasanna Saikia & Buoyant Performing Arts (India). There were also special presentations and workshops by Waileth & Bardon (Sweden) & Meghna Bhardwaj (New Delhi).

Every artist and piece carried a different flavour that is a result of a personal history of dance training, choreographic style, creative decisions but also a reflection of cultural perceptions, thinking and infiltrations. It has been a great pleasure to network with different artists and provide for their needs creating an international experience for performing arts right here in Kolkata.

Artists in residency with members from Van Huynh Company

Artists in residency with members from Van Huynh Company. Photo by Tanaya Bhattacharya

A very special part of the Dance Bridges Festival, was a three-week residency with artists from the Van Huynh Company in Kolkata with local dancers. Choreographer, Dam Van Huynh created a beautiful work titled “Resonance” with a company of five local artists and dancer Ieva Navickaite for the Festival. The 20-minute piece has original music accompaniment by Martyna Poznanska created from environmental sounds she recorded live in Kolkata.

Along with performances, the Festival included a section of film screenings with 20 dance films from over 14 countries. The dance films were curated in collaboration with Screendance Festival Sweden, Goethe Institut Kolkata, Gati Dance Forum and other independent artists. This was a truly unique part of the Festival and brought audiences insights into choreographic developments in dance as an art in the medium of film from across the world. During the Festival there were also several workshops in eastern and western styles of dance at different studios in the city providing another platform for sharing knowledge, connection and exchange.

Artists in residency with members from Van Huynh Company Tanaya Bhattacharya

Artists in residency with members from Van Huynh Company. Photo by Tanaya Bhattacharya

As the artistic director and producer for the Festival, it has been a long process of connecting with sponsors and partners. The Festival was possible due to the support and collaboration of Swar Sangam, ITC Ltd.,Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan, the Austrian Embassy & Austrian Cultural Forum New Delhi, The Swedish Arts Grants Committee (Konstnärsnämnden), Alliance Francaise du Bengale, British Council, Screendance Festival( Sweden), t2 Telegraph, 91.9 Friends FM, Soni Power, Add Life Caring Minds, Rhythmosaic Dance Company, Buoyant Performing Arts Centre, Sparsh Studio for Performing Arts, The Calcutta School of Music aHotel Nest International, Chaitown Creatives and Berger Paints.

It is my intention to host this Festival as a biennial event and the next edition is due to take place in 2017. I hope the Dance Bridges Festival grows from this first edition to continue in building artistic bridges and cultural exchanges within creative communities across the world.

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