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Cultural camaraderie

Dancers of the Margaret Jenkins Dance Companyand and Tanushree Shankar Dance School premiered a high energy performance in San Francisco, writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 13:44 IST

Dancers of the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, a Bay Area based contemporary dance institution and dancers of Calcutta based Tanushree Shankar Dance School premiered a high energy performance titled A Slipping Glimpse at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on May 17th.

The well rehearsed and seemingly seamlessly synchronised presentation running at the centre through May 27th show cases active and enthusiastic motions combining elements of kathak. The dance commences in the gardens of the centre and then moves in doors to the forum.

The creatively choreographed performance exemplifies individual stamina and group co ordination at its best. Though the free and rigorous motions that mark the performance seem far removed from the traditional kathak dance genre, yet the outcome of the amalgamation of sorts is interesting in its scope and enthralling in its outcome.

Speaking about the choice of the title for the production, Martha says: "I named it after a quote by William Dekooning: Reality is but a Slipping Glimpse. Via this work, I want to convey that we can glimpse, though fleetingly, in this fast paced life, the world of different cultures, customs, and countries. This co action resulted from me and my five dancers short stay of four weeks in Kocchi in November of last year where we rehearsed with dancers of Tanushree's dance company.

The genre of collaboration for presentations is old hat for both Martha and Tanushree. Their creative alliance commenced in 2003, when Jenkins visited Calcutta to choreograph the performance titled: Gate of Passages for Tanushree's company.

Two years later, both have again joined hands for the Slipping Glimpse-a 75-minute, multi-layered presentation attempting to explore the realms of individual and social experiences.

The production is primarily in the genre of modern dance while blending in pieces from the Indian dance. Besides highlighting the physical language of Indian dance especially the intricate hand motions and some feet movements, the performance is completely sans facial expressions and traditional costumes. "I wanted to highlight the culture and ideas that form the foundation of Indian dancing and address the conflict between the individual realm of experience and the moral sphere of influence in our changing world." Says Jenkins.

The dancers are looking for sponsors to take the work to India. Just before the world premiere of the production at YBCA, the dancers presented a preview of their work at the closing night celebrations at the prestigious Tie Conference in Santa Clara.

"For many years, Margaret Jenkins has been at the forefront of the development of modern dance on the West Coast of United States. Her approach is acutely sensitive to what is going on around her and around the world," said Kenneth J Foster, executive director of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The Paul Dresher Ensemble plays the music for the live production, the text is by poet Michael Palmer and set and lighting design by Alexander V Nichols.

"We hoped to find a movement language that is at once our own and foreign, a kind of third term, not exactly self and not exactly other, not exactly us and not exactly them but an unbounded space in between, discovered in fluid, alternative company," said writer/poet Michael Palmer.

Amidst large-scale corporate collaborations and business mergers, the importance of cross-cultural education and exchange of arts, crafts, cuisine and culture is important for long-term people to people affinity and understanding beyond financial bottom lines.

While Americans, especially in areas of substantial Indian Diaspora in the US are well exposed to Indian performing arts via the varied schools and performances, its time that performing arts of America like the genre of modern dance, ballet, tap dance, etc reach India. Programmes by professional performers in collaboration or in isolation can go a long way in familiarising the Indian populace to the world of American performing arts beyond MTV, soap operas, and Hollywood flicks.