Monday, April 15, 2013

Matali Crasset>Reboots Space Senstitive!

matali crasset, Reboots space senstitive update, installation for Danese, Triennale di Milano

A symbolic space for Danese’s vision in the form of a ritual of reconfiguration. Human presences, essential in their expression and connection, occupy the space.

A paper strip draws the shape of the human contours and is illuminated from the inside.
A representation of man, of life expressed by the light that comes from within and it’s environment.
A still images of a moment made from a repeated metaphor that, from time to time, evokes men, cohabitation between them and habitat on a human scale.
The small amount of material shows the essential, and finds the meaning of his actions.
Bring mankind to the center, its scale and its nature as the key to find balances and interactions within human and natural systems.

Not just simply managing technology, but also using all of its potential and our creativity to meet the challenges of today’s society.

The project was born from the intersections of social innovation, technology and new design practices for responsible development.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tagore - An Interpretation by Astad Deboo

Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s poems, Astad Deboo presents a contemporary dance recital. Titled INTERPRETING TAGORE, the premier takes place in Mumbai at Tata Theatre, 7pm. Some of the street children of Delhi who Astad has been mentoring for the last three years are featured in this production.

The seeds of my present work on Tagore were laid as far back as 1995. The Indian Express called me to participate in its planned festival on Rabindranath Tagore with a piece of my own. I eschewed the plays in favour of some of his poems, because the former demanded the backup of a group, and mine was to be a solo work.

I finally zeroed in on three poems – Akla Cholo, Your Grace and Every Fragment of Dust is Awakened. When I read them, I was deeply touched. For me, they were very resonant of my own struggles with the forces of traditionalism and the resistance to new ideas of a stone-hard bureaucracy. I rechristened Akla Cholo, calling it “Walking Tall.” I retained the names of the other two pieces, making one my own offering to the Devi and introducing the Kathak technique of the chakkars with the Sufi tradition of whirling for the last poem.

The performance was  warmly appreciated – and then put into hibernation for the sheer lack of opportunity to showcase it again. Till this year, when the country, and the world, are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore. This time, as I contemplated re-visiting my old work, and since I have been mentoring street children of the Salaam Balak Trust for the past three years with significant success, I decided some of them had progressed enough to take the leap into an Astad Deboo work.
The three pieces have been reworked into a completely new piece comprising four parts.  Where the first Aklo Cholo used masks and puppets, now there are eight other performers. The Devi work now has 8-foot puppets, while the third piece, re- titled Awakening, is still a solo performance.

The music is also new, except for that used in Awakening. Italian composer Frederico Senesie, who has also played percussion for the likes of Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Shiv Kumar Sharma, has written some of the music for Walking Tall. And Italian singer Amelia Coni, who is also a dhrupad singer, has provided voice for the fourth piece, which is brand new, called “Surrender”.

I have a dream for this work. That it will be reflective of the reverence in which Thakurda is held all over the world. That it will spark off fresh interest in the younger generation in his inimitable body of work. That this work itself can be seen by audiences in other parts of the world where artists wait with fresh interpretations for the works of the greatest masters of all time.

Celebrating 150 years of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in many ways. In a way it speaks of our zeal to rekindle an interest in Gurudev as he was fondly called. It also means revisiting his works that span across poems, dramas and literature as such.

One such production was a contemporary dance performance by veteran choreographer-dancer Astad Deboo and ensemble. It would be better to prefix the letters ‘Re' to the title Interpreting Tagore (a new contemplation of his poems in dance format). A long-drawn introduction to the artistes and the theme was followed by an equally dragging presentation of four short poems of Rabindranath Tagore to contemporary dance movements and pure music with a soulful song introduced for one of them. The dancers were agile and accurate while Deboo was like a boneless wonder! The dance was an a mixture of Kathak, southern classical, Kalari (martial arts) with a dash of Buddhist martial art technique and above all Yogic stances and not to talk of Sufi dervish! This was spiced with western music and dance moves too while the dress code was more or less Indian, bordering on long robes. The use of gigantic masked puppets springing a surprise on the audience and walking tall from within the auditorium was definitely a piece of wondrous creativity.

Walking tall (Akala Cholo), Your Grace, Awakening and Surrender — these four poems are reflections of Tagore's philosophy and spiritualism that translate into dance movements conveying the emotive element on the surface while the abstract thought remains rather unexplored or even if it was, in Deboo's scheme of things, it did not peter down to us. The yogic stances and the slow moves to pure music seemed meticulously sluggish at one point of time and it was a breather to hear the music gather momentum in the second piece and the dancers' spring with sprite. Viewed in isolation, the artistes gave the impression of moving images trying to interpret Tagore's verses. When the subject is abstract and the interpretative medium of dance is also abstract, where does it lead the audience? For most part, the audience were wonderstruck by the aesthetics, calisthenics interlaced with mild footwork to background percussion, athletic jumps in the air with natyasastra mudras to make a point which only the classical dance aficionados could discern.

The juxtaposition of light and dark through costume (red and black in contrast with black and silver ), the repressive forces that man has to traverse with courage if he has to attain enlightenment at the end of the day, were some of the finer nuances of this presentation. The grace of the Mother goddess (use of four masked, 8ft high props) as the devotees kneel and pray, beseeching Her mercy was an aesthetically pleasing piece.

Deboo's mime depicted man's quest for the ultimate reality which is the soul's awakening. Here he used the technique of chakkars and dervish bringing in the Sufi esoteric element. The Surrender could have been a little more explicit because it deals with the focal point of Hindu thought.
Whatever be the dance structure, it should mirror the underlying meaning of the verse, especially so, because it is Tagore. His poems are deceptively simple with a depth that is very difficult to gauge. A stronger grammar on the dance front would have helped in uncovering the inner layers, not to talk of traditionalistic point of view. Staged at the Taramati Baradari indoor auditorium, Interpreting Tagore was part of Krishnakriti festival organised by Kalakriti Art Gallery and Moving Images.

If one had to name one dancer who has elevated modern dance in India to an art form, it would be Astad Deboo. He has created a classic dance form that is contemporary yet Indian unlike any other. For those not familiar with his work, Deboo's repertoire includes choreographed pieces where thang-ta (martial arts), the martial art from Manipur was used, along with swords and spears. He uses pungcholam, drums from Manipur for the music and his dance is a blend of Kathak, Kathakali and modern styles. He combines the three to create movements that are unique and denote oneness of the body, mind and soul. Deboo has received Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and has also been conferred with the Padma Shri. His work has been seen in 65 countries.

Moving Images presented Astad Deboo's new production, Interpreting Tagore, based on Tagore's poetry, which was performed on 8th January, 2012 to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Deboo danced with his protégées from the Salaam Baalak Trust at Taramati Baradari, Hyderabad. The Interpreting Tagore premiered in Mumbai and then went to Hyderabad. It will be presented at G.D. Birla Sabhaghar, Kolkata on 11th April, 2012. In September 2012, the work goes on a European tour.

Interpreting Tagore uses world music, movement and alternative theatre forms, like puppets and masks, as well as poetry recitation. The music doesn't include any Rabindra sangeet. Performances like Walking Tall is based on Tagore's poem Ekla Chalo Re, Your Grace is based on Goddess Kali and Awakening, based on the poem Every Fragment of Dust is Awakened. The new piece is called Surrender. Surrender is set to a dhrupad composition by Italian vocalist Amelia Cuni. All my music has an international flavour as it features compositions by Japanese composer Yoichiro Yoshikawa, Frederico Senesei, an Italian tabla player from Milan and Liro Rantala, a Finnish pianist.

His choreography entitled ContraPosition with the Clarke School has travelled across India, Southeast Asia, Europe and Australia. The Astad Deboo Foundation, formed in 2002, aims to provide creative training to both the able and the disabled, and to facilitate the artistic development of talented deaf dancers.

The one and only Astad Deboo, along with dancers from Salaam Baalak Trust who he has been training for the past four years, presented Interpreting Tagore with select eight dancers. The programme at Kamani Hall was in aid of Salaam Baalak Trust. The house full performance is another feather in the cap of Astad who has been for the past 40 years performing contemporary dance winning laurels. And his concern for less privileged section and children has brought cheer to the disabled children and street children.

Of the four selected poem of Gurudev Tagore - Surrender, Your Grace, Walking Tall, Awakening - the one which indeed amazed the audience was Your Grace which cast a spell. So unusual and spectacular was it in its concept, imagination, colour and scale that one shall remember it for a long time. As a matter of fact, from all other numbers, Your Grace stole the show.

Akash Khurana’s recitation of the poem in English set the mood. The English translation runs as follows: Mother, I shall weave a chain of pearls for thy neck with my tears of sorrow, the stars have wrought their anklets of light to deck thy feet, but mine will hang upon thy breast. Wealth and fame come from thee and it is for thee to give or to withhold them. But this sorrow is absolutely mine own, and when I bring it to thee as my offering thou rewardest me with thy grace.

The four young dancers performed before the image of a figure with three masks, faces of Kali, using Mayurbhanj Chhau movements with aerial movements around the mother figure. But then lo and behold, from the audience walked four larger than life tall figures dressed in red, with masks of Goddess Kali and walked up on the stage, where as a devotee Astad bowed to these four Goddesses. The scale of those four Goddesses was so big that the presentation took one’s breath away!

It was spectacular. The red and black colours were hypnotic.  Astad dancing under the compassionate eyes of the Goddesses with contrasting heights and scales, created an amazing effect. The Goddesses with their large palms almost caressing the devotee, looking like a child, created an unforgettable visual. The mother’s love for the child, epitomizing Grace found a felicitous expression in those five figures: Astad and four Goddesses. They were live puppets for which Dadi Pudumjee had trained the young dancers. They effortlessly managed the balance carrying on their hands and shoulders covered with flowing red large sarees. The appropriate music, the superb lighting and total impact set the choreography apart. In recent memory, I have not seen such visuals and choreography.

Avinash Kumar and Shamshul have been assistant choreographers and also performers. The masks and puppets were created by Mohammed Shameem and Anil Kumar. The costume design was by Archana Shah, and light designing was by Milind Srivastava. The total effect was astounding.
From among other numbers, Surrender had Astad’s signature of his balancing the body turning backward almost touching the ground and remaining rock steady on his feet. The other dancers juxtaposed with Astad in one corner danced with slow movement and the total impact was artistic and aesthetic.

One wished Astad had avoided English vachikabhinaya in Walking Tall; Tagore had written this poem for Mahatma Gandhi for his struggles. The music is well known as the lyrics and it would have added to the enjoyment of the poem and dance if Astad had used the original tunes of ‘Ekala chalo re’. The groups on either side with mime and gestures narrated the indifference and hurdles, whereas Astad as a protagonist, indeed with chest out and head held up, created the mood of going alone. However, the hand gestures and movements looked repetitive and limited.

The poem Awakening had Astad taking more than four hundred pirouettes - chakkars - and one would never tire of seeing that piece with eclectic music. The lighting enhanced the mood. Astad after taking breath also spoke to the audience introducing his dancers, and thanked all. One learnt a lot about Salaam Baalak Trust and the wonderful work Astad is doing with them. At the end, Sanjoy Roy of Team Works told us that Astad’s mother had passed away in Mumbai the previous evening, but Astad insisted on performing, as he said his mother would have liked him to. The audience stood up in his mother’s memory and showed respect for her and Astad.