Diaspora Dialogues trigger — Hairstyles of performers

To: Shobana Jeyasingh
From: Casper Abraham
Date: 10 November 2010
Subject : Performance at Chowdiah, Bangalore, India

Some personal points… and raison d’etre to write…
1. Should I , Shouldn’t I write such a note. Should I, Shouldn’t I send it. Should I, Shouldn’t I make it formal anwqd long such as in a document such as this.
Of course you should comment. That is the right of every consumer of the arts. In UK it is the tax payer who funds the arts so that entitlement is given. When the performance is free I wonder if this is different?

2. I am the last person to comment… judge something that I am not a part of; do not understand; is alien to me; hardly dance myself; primarily from a Cultural Christian South Indian background… etc. etc.
You do not need to be a dance expert. Some understanding of the conventions of contemporary dance probably enriches the spectating but I think the “untutored” intellectual and emotional response to art is also valuable. If you have sensitivity/knowledge about other arts like music, painting, literature etc you are half way there anyway because you will be attuned to structure, rhetoric etc that all art products have in common
3. However… qualified with British Systems of Music (Royal Schools & Guildhall Trinity) teaching and playing the Classical Guitar, Recorder, Concert Flute, Double Bass.
This is a brilliant entry point to viewing dance!
4. Having run a multimedia company and created websites, brochures, road shows and events collateral etc. for companies mostly American Multinationals and a few larger Indian Businesses.
Ditto re visual education!
5. Have been a firm believer that 90% of the visual is in the audio. The exceptions being art forms such as “mime” and perhaps what I thought you do.
Music and light design I think radically alter the way the narrative of the dance is “read” by the audience.

Different Perspectives on the Performance… trying to be someone else and commenting form their perspectives…
1. Perspective ONE
a. If you were a purist and found glimpses of Bharathanatiyam (and other Indian culture influences) and rhythms – it is fusion and has been done before and was an interesting mix.

2. I really LOATHE the word fusion! Contemporary dance unlike BN does not have a code or set of unchanging rules that you can “fuse” with anything else. Contemporary only means the introduction of the personal into the creative process. It is an attitude rather than a structure.
a. If you were a purist ballet or western classical dance performer; the fluidity, flexibility and adaptation of a more all encompassing west meets east was more than you see in these other staid performances.

I am not a believer in East meets West either! Sorry! When I come to Bangalore from London I don't experience a divide. However when I go from London to an English village I do. I think cities have much in common.

3. Perspective THREE
a. India Press. The next day headline in the Times of India, Bangalore edition with just one headline BLACK MAGIC… and one photo summed up the local critic. This is because of several facets that seemed to lead to this conclusion. The text ‘Bruised Blood’, ‘Fault Line’. The use of red and black (Dracula? to mis-informed Indians?). The beat, the repetition; darkness; shadows. Reflects conservative, extreme, radical view of Society?
There was not much critical discourse around contemporary dance generally but also the daily papers have other agendas which are not sympathetic to reflecting on the arts?
4. Perspective FOUR
a. As a musician the use of repetition was fascinating. Gregorian Chants, Liturgy, Sanskrit shlokhas and plainsong etc. from every culture helps focus the mind. In the arts (including Advertising Communications) theme-songs; signature tunes and repetition while constantly changing the visual is an oft-use communication. Not seen this much in Theatre, Opera, Drama etc.
Very astute comparison! Ioften give the example of an advert when I try to describe abstract dance. It is making a real time and dynamic image which you hope will be evocative. I love the manipulation of repetition. I do not set movement to the rhythms of the music but prefer to have more varying relationship with the music.
5. Perspective FIVE
a. Contemporariness was evident throughout. Choice of titles. Choice of colour. Hairstyles of performers. Selection of Costume. Lighting. Staging. Selection of Music. From Soprano to Rap to Beats.
I am glad you noticed the dancer’s hair. A lot of the dance work’s communication is affected by this. For Bruise Blood we had a stylist in the dressing room straightening hair!
6. Perspective SIX
a. The sound effects were awesome. Mix-levels and delivery were near perfect. Whether it just happened by chance or tremendous effort the effects of rain; rhythmic effects to a whole host of audio detail was just magical in the context of supporting the stage visuals.

WE spend a lot of money on original music commissions and so employ a full time sound engineer who we tour with. I will pass on your comments to Fred De Fay our sound engineer who worked really hard in Bangalore and all other India dates. We hired all the sound equipment. We could only realize about 70 % of our visual design in Indian venues due to lack of funds. The Faultline film should have been projected on to our specially designed curved screen but it was too expensive to transport. Bruise Blood has computerized moving lights and a light sculpture behind a gauze which we could not reproduce in India. Acoustically the Chowdiah Hall was great.

In a nutshell…

When it comes to dance I am certainly not one of the dance educated few and belong squarely to the masses… I came away feeling how little I understood and the need to learn and know more about what exactly was being communicated and why was it that I didn't get it.

I think you got it better than you give yourself credit for!

Leaving the audience/spectator to interpret and take what they want as their essence from a performance is perhaps an easier way out but as Artistes perhaps we have to take time off and help educate beyond the ‘few’.
It is shame that in Bangalore we did not have the time and resources to host a “meet the choreographer” session. We had this in Delhi and Mumbai where I did a talk called “Choregeographies”. In Bangalore we only did a workshop for dancers. Maybe next time…?
Yes I agree that we need to disseminate. Seeing performances is also a way of educating one self?
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond in this much detail.