March Dance 2018

Trailer video editing: Sharan Devkar Shankar

March Dance
Festival of contemporary dance
March 19-24, 2018 Chennai
Venue: Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai

Every hour of performance we watch has an unseen prelude of several more. For many artists the performative moment is at times not even the most rigorous, substantial outcome of the months/years spent developing, thinking, writing, teaching, researching and rehearsing. MARCH DANCE 2018, a festival for contemporary body-centric work, focused on artists who often rely on practices other than dance as a way to find articulation as creators.

Somatic lab : Navtej Johar

Navtej Singh Johar’s pedagogic work ‘Somatic Lab’ on the dialogue between Yoga and newer somatic practices truly brought us to the mechanical heart of movement – how it is spoken, how words translate into action.

Say, What? : Avantika Goyal

Avantika Bahl Goyal’s silent duet ‘Say, What?’ with co-dancer Vishal Sarvaiya, employing Indian sign language, raised question about vocabularies and stylizations that are not dance, yet more urgent somehow.

Edges, Trilogy : Meghna Bhardwaj

For Meghna Bharadwaj, completing her doctorate in Performance Studies, writing dance is a powerful tool and prism through which to understand her processes. In this festival, she presented her work ‘Edges, Trilogy’.

Ringarotus : Malavika Chakravarty

Malavika Chakravarty, in ‘Ringarotus’ brought together her drawing and body in a taut, precisely timed exploration of image.

Trans/It : Deepak Kurki Sivaswamy

Deepak Kurki Shivaswamy’s newest work ‘Trans/It’, a duet of pure physicality, was presented as a work in progress with his co-dancer Manju Sharma.

As well, this year, as a way to throw open our doors to practitioners from outside the dance space, a week-long workshop was organized by Antonio Carallo from Berlin/Italy. As integral member of the Pina Bausch company for fifteen years, Antonio addressed several issues that surrounded performativity and theatrical expression in dance in a way that was relevant to the context.

And, gluing all this together, were talks, films on dance, interviews and many informal meetings between dance and its audience at Goethe Institut, Chennai.

A review:–dance-6571.html


March Dance 2017

March Dance
Festival of contemporary dance
Venue: Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai

MARCH DANCE 2017 is the first year of the Chennai-based contemporary dance festival. The three dance-works presented in the festival were

  • ‘Varnam’ by Padmini Chettur
  • ‘Conditions of Carriage’ by Preethi Athreya
  • ‘Queen Size’ by Mandeep Raikhy

A review:


Ever heard a violinist in an auto rickshaw? Seen vertiginous walking feet or strange people with cameras stuck to their foreheads? Visited an ICU corridor in a ‘plant-hospital’? Crawled with crawlimals or climbed up somebody else’s wall in perfect rhythm? All that and more @Pause/Play.

Basement 21 in collaboration with Goethe-Institut, Chennai
November 21st & 22nd, 2014.


Pause/Play is a series of artistic interactions, site-specific installations and performances – music, dance, film, installation,….. in a playful, yet thought-provoking structure, all responding to the idea of interruption, breaking or bursting in the middle of a flow in the routine running of the Goethe-Institut (Chennai) as an institution.



Conditions Of Carriage

Conditions of Carriage‘ is a contemporary dance piece choreographed by Preethi Athreya. Created out of tasks based on finding ways to carry the dancing bodies on and above the ground, Conditions of Carriage is a group-choreography touching upon balance, empathy, rigour and the intersection of sports and dance.

The following link is a collage of various performances of this work.

Photo credit – Sharan Devkar Shankar (at IGNITE! festival, Delhi)

Copyrights of video and photo – Preethi Athreya

Brihannala: A Myth, A Journey, A Dance-conversation

A conversation with Aniruddhan Vasudevan (first published in Aainanagar)

Aniruddhan Vasudevan is an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer, performer, writer, translator and activist based in Chennai. His dance/theater piece ‘Brihannala’ raises questions about gender in Indian Dance, Theater and society.

“I had watched an earlier version (excerpts of which are to be found in this page) of this piece in Chennai four years ago, and a desire to talk to Aniruddhan about it has been there ever since.” – Madhushree (interviewer).


Scene from Brihannala

Q: Why Brihannala? It’s an Indian mythological character and as a Bharatanatyam dancer you may have sought your protagonist in that literature…there might be other reasons…but I’m naturally assuming that the issue is the so-called social ambiguity of gender. But then there were other characters with – I shouldn’t say similar – may be parallel gender-issues like Shikhandi, Yuvanashva, even Chitrangada in the same literature.

Aniruddhan: The answer to that is, I am afraid, rather simple and straightforward. I started learning Bharatanatyam in 1988 when I was six years old. That was also the year BR Chopra’s famous mega TV series, ‘Mahabharat,’ started airing on Doordarshan. The episodes that had me riveted were the ones where we see the Pandavas in the thirteenth year of their exile, living in disguise in the kingdom of Virata. Arjuna becomes Brihannala, a transgender woman. I was really enthralled by that visual representation of Arjuna’s temporary transformation. That impact, I think, stayed with me. Later, as a queer adult, I have had moments of deep gender crisis, but they were always short-lived, though intense, experiences. And when I looked for some kind of a metaphor or a short-hand or an ideal-type to understand these temporary intensities of gender I experienced, I thought of Brihannala again. Plus, I also had this weird crush on the Arjuna I saw on TV, and I could not tell if it was actually a puppy crush on the actor (Feroz Khan) who played the role). Then later there was also this intense Krishna love, triggered by dance songs and Vaishnava poetry. So all of it seemed to somehow converge on Brihannala as a figure that helped me make some order out of this chaotic flow of desires.

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Total Masala Slammer/ Heartbreak No. 5: A Review

A case of mistaken identity for the Indian classical dancer?

Preethi  Athreya

This review (also available online here) was first published in Dance Research Journal, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Winter, 2004), pp. 139-143. It is being re-presented here with the permission of the author, in addition to a few performance photos and a short excerpt of the performance (uploaded by the director). Photo courtesy – Michel Laub ( and photographer Monica Rittershaus. We would be happy to remove the review/ video/photos if we are notified of any copyrights rule violation.

Total Masal Slammer/ Heartbreak no. 5, conceived and directed by Belgian director Michel Laub and visual artist Marina Abramovic [1], has been described as a European American Indian multimedia theater project combining dance, theater, video projection, art installation, and music. Laub and Abramovic draw on vastly mixed references to deal with themes of race and multiculturalism. A recurrent theme is women and their abuse in different cultural perspectives. Laub and Abramovic are fascinated by two extremes of Indian culture: on the one side the purity of classical Indian dance and art, kathak; on the other, the triviality of soap operas and kitschy TV serials produced by Bollywood (Archa Theatre 2001). Laub’s theater is said to play with the conventions of theatrical representation, constantly bringing the rehearsal process onto the stage. Less interested in trained actors than in forceful personalities, Laub looks for a fusion of the autobiographical details of his performers with fictional situations. So, what happens when Michel Laub, a postmodernist with a tendency to parody order, system, and signification, collaborates with Kumudini Lakhia, a traditional reformist for whom art is about poetry, wonder, simplicity, and dignity?

In Total Masal Slammer, unrequited love is “performed” in different performance traditions of kathak and Bharatanatyam, Bollywood soap opera, and German theater. Actors, sometimes wearing period costumes, read out excerpts from a book with exaggerated melodrama or affected irreverence. Audition videos are screened, and there is much dancing– contemporary dance, cabaret, kathak, and bharatanatyam. It has a deliberately fragmented piece-by-piece approach with actors seated on stage, taking turns to perform their acts. Goethe’s text. “The sorrows of Young Werther,” appears and disappears between numerous unconnected episodes. It concerns a young man stricken by unrequited love to the point of taking his life.

The French Kiss Scene

The set is minimal with a cinema screen on a raised platform upstage center, a wooden platform downstage center and chairs on either side. A backdrop of billowy cloth tumbles down dramatically with some scene changes. Among the characters are three contemporary dancers, seven kathak dancers, and two bharatanatyam dancers chosen from the auditions in Bombay, Ahmedabad, and Chennai. Woman as sex object is a recurring motif. A dancer in a sequined dress wriggles and sways as she recounts the mischievous story of her Caribbean-European origin while a European dancer in a clinging red sari listens to her Walkman, giggles, and imitates an Indian accent; she returns later in the nude and joins a group of female kathak dancers, mimicking their delivery of bols [2] .

A male kathak dancer sings a song about love while a frantic woman repeatedly runs across the stage. Two male Bharatanatyam dancers begin dancing a traditional fast-paced rhythmic piece while the traditional accompaniment suddenly changes to an electronic techno beat. Excerpts of films are projected on the screen from time to time, including a clip in which a Bollywood dancer with her thrusts and covert glances fills up the screen and is followed by a eunuch. Renowned choreographer Kumudini Lakhia demonstrates sorrow in the classical tradition. During intermission, a kathak dancer performs a complicated rhythmic piece in front of the curtained stage. The last scene brings all the characters on stage at the same time, each doing their routine in a frenzied pace.

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