Padma Shri award winner Astad Deboo is taking on Rabindranath Tagore. In a tribute to the Nobel Laureate on his 150th birth anniversary, the dancer will be staging a reinterpretation of a performance he created in 1995. “This time I thought I could include the kids,” says Deboo. The kids in question, are his loyal band of dancers from Salaam Baalak, an NGO that provides street kids with food, education and, referencing Deboo’s four-year association with them, a chance to express themselves on stage.
“When they first came to the centre they weren’t used to my style of working, and prior to that they had just been exposed to Bollywood dance and didn’t know that this (his mix of traditional Kathak with modern freestyle movements) was also called dance,” Deboo recalls. “Now, they’re pushing the envelope. I was recently choreographing a piece for a school in Chandigarh, and I asked my boys to interpret it themselves.”
Having started working on his latest project in August, Deboo will perform three pieces — Ekla Cholo, Your Grace and Every Fragment Of Dust Is Awakened — at Vivanta by Taj President tomorrow before making their commercial debut at the National Centre For Performing Arts on November 29. He will also take the production to Japan and Korea under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, an achievement that has many of his underprivileged students jumping with delight.
In his career, which ranges from performing with music legends Pink Floyd to choreographing for the prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater Ballet Company, Deboo picks a rather subtle moment as his profession’s high: “I’ve been working with deaf dancers for over 22 years. When I performed with them for President Abdul Kalam at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi, he was so moved that he insisted on personally serving each of them their meals.”
The 64-year-old dancer doesn’t feel it’s time to hang up his dancing shoes. “I enjoy the buzz and the appreciation. I don’t know if I’ll be dancing till 90, but I do hope I have the good sense to stop in time.”