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Battery Dance: NY group fuses contemporary dance with Indian classical music

Five members of Battery Dance group, along with an Indian dancer, performed ‘Shakti: A Return to the Source’ to the accompaniment of ‘Raag Durga’, rendered by musicians Rajan Mishra and Sajan Mishra.

art and culture Updated: Feb 02, 2018 12:39 IST
Five members of Battery Dance group, along with an Indian dancer, performed ‘Shakti: A Return to the Source.
Five members of Battery Dance group, along with an Indian dancer, performed ‘Shakti: A Return to the Source.(Youtube)

Wrapping up its high-octane India tour, a New York-based dance troupe enthralled the audience in New Delhi with a western contemporary performance infused with Indian classical themes, which its director described as a “wild experiment”.

Five members of Battery Dance group, along with an Indian dancer, performed ‘Shakti: A Return to the Source’ to the accompaniment of ‘Raag Durga’, rendered by musicians Rajan Mishra and Sajan Mishra, to a packed house last evening at the Kamani Auditorium.

Jonathan Hollander, president and artistic director of the company, said the performance was by nature “organic” and it came “out of a seed”.

“The whole act is a layered experience and mixing the two art schools - Indian Classical and American Contemporary - was a wild experiment. But, there is that element of inevitability which makes the experience unique,” he told PTI.

“I just gave a broad thematic ambit to my troupe, rest I let my dancers do their own body inflexes,” he said.

The performance, which included a few pure contemporary acts by the US-based troupe, was organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). It was attended by US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, Director General of ICCR Riva Ganguly Das, the Mishra brothers, and a number of other personalties and art lovers.

Juster said he was raised in New York and so it felt special to attend the performance as his country’s ambassador in India. An Indian dancer, who trained with the group in New York, joined the five performers from the US for ‘Shakti’.

“The blend of one art form with another was done very gracefully by all artistes. They performed to the chantings of Raag Durga, which was very difficult, but they did it with ease. The artistes were performing contemporary dance, which involved a lot of body movements and contacts, but it was done with grace,” Sajan Mishra told PTI.

Noted dancer Geeta Chandran, who attended the event, said their dance vocabulary is very different from classical Indian school, but “they did a very good job”. Battery Dance launched its India tour with a performance at St. Andrew’s Auditorium in Mumbai, followed by performances in Kolkata and Bengaluru.

The company has performed in 70 countries until now. Robin Cantrell shared the challenges the troupe faced in executing the performance.

“The duet in the middle of the ‘Shakti’ performance was a bit challenging. Also, the transfer of weight while holding on to the body parts of a fellow dancer, in synchrony with the Indian classical music was difficult but we enjoyed learning it all,” Robin said.

Artistic director Hollander said he had first heard Raag Durga in 1992, when “I was in Ahmedabad after arriving in India as a Fulbrighter. That sound left an imprint on me and essentially the seeds of ‘Shakti’ were sown”.

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