What an intense and rich month May has been. As I look back at what I have done, at what I have learned, at the inspiring performances I have watched, I feel really grateful for the opportunities offered to me and rewarded by the efforts I have done so far. May is a curious month, as it marks the end of the academic year and the beginning of the Summer, with its emphasis on personal development and research. It is a month always packed with learning experiences for me, as I enjoy the flexibility given by the end of teaching activities.
The month kicked off with two Odissi workshops at Southbank Centre, which I co-led with my dance colleague Katie Ryan. The workshops, which were part of the Alchemy festival, took place on the 1st and 8th and aimed at introducing Odissi to a completely new audience. Teaching Odissi to people who have never been exposed to it, or in general to Indian classical dance, is always exciting but also quite challenging. The first task is offering a session that, while being true to the form and its complexity, is also exciting and able to engage participants in the learning process. Then, the other big task is breaking down all those ‘basic’ skills that can be very difficult for the complete beginner.
May has also concluded the Odissi Ensemble Spring Tour as we presented Gods and Mortals at the Hat Factory, Luton, on the 7th and in Sunderland Minster on the 12th. Both performances were extremely successful and we even got a standing ovation. Dancing in Sunderland Minster was particularly magic. I believe sacred places as churches and temples, or even nature itself, provide the most appropriate and fulfilling context to dance Odissi.
I also led four Spring Workshops on Odissi Basics in Brixton, which were an opportunity for me to share some of the elements of technique I have learned during my training in Delhi, in particular, khandi, bhramaris, charis and utplavanas. It was lovely to have a small but very dedicated group of students in the studio.
And at the end of the month I also gave a Workshop for Toddlers at Southbank Centre, always as part of Alchemy. The workshop was absolute fun as we explored the gaits and movements of Sacred Animals of India!
In terms of my own learning, I attended Ileana Citaristi’s workshop, during which she taught a rare composition by guruji, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. I particularly liked the lyrics and the melody of this piece of choreography! I also watched Ileana’s performance at Nerhu Centre and attended her lecture demonstration on the Navarasas at King’s College. Ileana is such an inspiring person and a model of life achievement.
On the 26th, I watched the flawless and spectacular performance of Nrityagram at the Royal Festival Hall, which was a true feast for the eyes. What I found inspiring in Nrityagram’s choreography was particularly the excellent use of time, space, dynamics and the enormous physical training that surfaces in every and each of their movements. I can’t wait to be there in a week or so, to imbibe part of their artistry.
On the 29th, I attended Choreogata showcase, where again I left incredibly satisfied and inspired. I particularly liked Seeta Patel’s reinterpretation of dance classics, such as the Swan Lake or the Rite of Spring. Equally, the other choreographic scratches left me with fun, nostalgia and sorrow, as they tackled very contrasting issues, such as gender, homelessness, refugee crisis, or life in an Indian urban street.
The month ended with the excellent performative lecture of Priya Srinivasan, based on her book Sweating Saris, which is seriously one of the best academic books I have ever read and that I highly recommend as it discusses issues of cultural appropriation and Indian classical dancers as labourer, rather than cultural bearer or nationalist symbols.
Well, now I cannot but look forward to my time at Nrityagram Summer Workshop, which I envisage will be a great learning curve for me. I can’t wait to be there and breathe dance morning and night, train, observe, reflect, write, try new things and expand my dance horizons.
Watch out for blogs on this amazing experience, made possible by funding coming from different sources (Lisa Ullman Travel Grant, Movin’Up-Giovani Artisti Italian and Staff Development Fund, Kingston University).