Diaspora Dialogues trigger — No Indianness

From: Leela Venkataraman
Date: 1 March 2011 10:10:31 GMT
To: Shobana
Subject: RE: hello

Dear Shobna,

I note what you have to say to my views. Yes, a discussion on this would be good. A lot of people have asked me what Indian identity means. I have yet to find an answer which satisfies. All the best.
Leela venkataraman

Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:57:45 +0000

Dear Ms Venkataraman,

It was a privilege to read your thoughts on what makes dance both Indian and contemporary. I do take on board what you mean about the use of the face. In my very first piece when I only worked with Bharatha Natyam dancers I decided to re-locate the face to cover the entire body. I had always found a well structured Thillana to be an equally emotionally charged experience as a padam.

I can see how Chandra’s work could appear more Indian than Padmini's though they were /are both residents of Chennai at least in regards to the “rhetoric” of the choreography. I haven’t seen much of Padmini's work but I see a strong link to Chandra’s structure and composition.

Hopefully one day we can have a longer time to discuss these interesting matters,

Thank you very much for this e conversation!

Warm Regards

On 10 Dec 2010, at 10:19, Leela Venkataraman wrote:

Dear Shobna,

I wish I could describe or define what ‘indianness’ means. Nobody can. But it is a recognisable quality. Generally today what we see in India is Contemporary Dance derived from Indian dance forms. I wonder if you have seen the works of late Narendra Sharma. Now that for us would be Indian. The Indian element in your work, which of course would be whatever has come from Bharatanatyam is now become absorbed in a language which has borrowed a lot from the western dance forms - atleast i think so. What I am trying to say in my review is that what one expects from the Indian background would be different in terms of movement and how one approaches it, costume and certainly music. I am not finding fault. I am only trying to say that Contemporary Dance comes in as many manifestations as there are choreographers – and each would have assimilated influences from different contacts.

In Contemporary Dance as envisioned by dancers in India, the face still plays a part in showing emotions – something that dancers in the west do not – and the emotion is shown by the entire body movement.

I can tell you that I am no authority on Contemporary Dance. I am more well informed about classical dances. But I find all dance interesting no matter of what genre. Indian Contemporay Dance has miles to go still though we have now a group of youngstgers like Santosh Nair and his entire group who are trying to do new things with the dance.
After seeing Padmini Chettur's work, people wanted to know why the dancers had to wear frocks ! Now she too was certainly thinking of just movement and not any nationalistic identity to go with it. But her mentor Chandralekha did work in which the Indian identity spoke loud and clear – though it was contemporary.

Have I said anything to make things clear or have I confused you more? Nice to hear from you. Do keep up the contact.
Leela Venkataraman

From: Shobana
To: Leela Venkataraman
Subject: hello
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2010 18:06:41 +0000

Dear Ms Venkataraman,

Hope you are well.

It was a pleasure to see you at our performance in Delhi and thank you very much for your thoughtful review. I was intrigued by your comment on my work that “no Indianness characterised this unique creation”. I would be more than interested to hear of your thoughts on what would constitute a recognisable Indianness in contemporary dance. This is such an important observation and I am sure you have some fascinating insights given your illustrious history of dance discourse in India.

Many Thanks

Kind Regards