(Picture for representational purpose only)
Another excerpt from Modern Dance for Indian Bodies. Probably the last one I am sharing here.
The best part about being a contemporary dance artist is that you are always in search of something new, because that’s what ‘cotemporary’ means – something new. In terms of concept, contemporary dance relates to the portrayal of current events and thoughts in a new way. Modern dance in its ever-changing form is contemporary in nature, which is exactly why contemporary dance artists feel the need for exploration. They can’t be confined to one place or one form of movement. With every opportunity of performance, teaching or participation, there is a scope of exchange – exchange of knowledge, dance cultures, thoughts and aspirations, which in turn inspires the artist to grow and create something new. And that brings us to the question – What are the ways to explore dance in different parts of the world?
Well, I could give you some answers by researching online but that doesn’t make any sense. My experience and knowledge is certainly limited to answer that question. So, I connected with a few artists and choreographers in different parts of the world who have visited India and many other countries to explore dance.
I got in touch with Steve Rooks from the US, whose experience in performing and teaching modern dance is as vast and deep as an ocean. He was one of the leading dancers at Martha Graham Dance Company until 1991 and has been a guest faculty in many leading dance schools including Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Sumeet Nagdev Dance Arts (SNDA) was honoured to conduct a workshop with him in 2009 and 2012. Here’s what he had to share about his experience teaching modern dance in India and other countries.
‘The most striking difference I noticed was the lack of familiarity of many of my students in India with the Graham-based modern dance movement that I teach. Graham technique is a bit more prevalent in the United Stated and Europe as compared to India. Another thing that came as a surprise to me was that students in Mumbai, whom I taught, were quick to respond to the new vocabulary, and were quite tenacious in their work. In fact, I was extremely impressed with their physicality, and found their willingness to explore new genres of dance at par with their American counterparts. The students were sharp and crisp in their movements, and much of their dancing had a dramatic subtext. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the dancers!’
According to Rooks, Indian culture is unique. ‘Dance is so marvellously prevalent in Indian culture—it literally “comes out of the pores” of many Indian dancers. India’s rich heritage reflects in most of its arts. So much of India’s beautiful, traditional dance has religious underpinnings. Dance has such a rich tapestry, and I feel blessed to have been able to travel abroad and experience the art in so many countries. I think that as a teacher and choreographer, it is essential to have a growing world view of dance, and to seize any opportunity for an artistic exchange. I am so very grateful for my experience with SNDA, and I feel that working with students at SNDA has had a lifelong impact on me,’ he says.
‘India’s contribution to the field of dance has been immense, but even on an international level, it is growing rapidly. ‘The phenomenon of Bollywood dance has grown exponentially in its international impact. Even when it comes to modern dance, India now boasts of several international dance festivals. India has some major players like New Delhi’s Bhoomika Creative Dance Center in the international contemporary dance scene,’ he says.
Opportunities of exploring modern dance around the globe
I had the privilege of connecting with Mark Haim from New York, whose choreographing and teaching experience spans over 30 years. He has performed in works by legendary artists including Paul Taylor, Jose Limon and Anna Sokolow, while his experience as a choreographer can’t be summarized in a few words. I am glad that despite his busy schedule, he could make some time to jot down a few words on exploring modern dance education abroad.
‘Fortunately, today you can find dance in every corner of the world, and modern dance to boot! However, if one is interested in an intense period of study (1–3 weeks, for example), one wants to go somewhere that offers many classes and workshops simultaneously. For over 40 years, New York City has long been known for its plethora of dance studios and classes. There are other cities that offer a similar dance studio infrastructure, notably London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, San Francisco and Montreal.
Another route of studying abroad is to attend modern dance festivals, and these abound all over the world, usually in the summer. Some of the best known festivals are ImPulsTanz (Austria), The American Dance Festival (USA), Bates Dance Festival (USA) and MELT (USA).
For longer-term study and degrees/certificates, one can attend one of the many conservatories or universities around the world. Conservatories are usually more dance- and arts–intensive, while universities offer a dance education with a broader scope. Examples of conservatories include Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance (London), Codarts Rotterdam (Netherlands), PARTS (Brussels), Amsterdam School of the Arts (Netherlands), the Centres Choreographiques Nationaux (France), The Juilliard School (USA) and NYU Tisch School of the Arts (USA). Until recently, universities outside the USA did not offer dance degrees, but this has changed and one can now find them all over the world, at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some examples in the USA include Ohio State University, University of Iowa, University of California-Irvine and the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign’, he concludes.