Impulse to dance

| by Eleanor Turney

Tags: Feature

Impulse was a six month season of UK contemporary dance in India, featuring five companies, performances in seven cities and a vast workshop programme. This meeting was designed to share lessons from the companies which toured India and to think about what should happen next. UK Director Theatre and Dance, Neil Webb, introduced the panel: Joêl Daniel from Champloo Dance, critic Sanjoy Roy, Sarah Trist from Protein Dance, Anand from Aakash Odebra and Neha Jaiswar who works on the British Council's team in India.

Neha explained that Impulse demonstrated that there is a great interest in contemporary dance in India, including touring, training, networking, collaborating, exchanging experiences with the UK and building new relationships. More than 25,000 people saw work connected to the tour, and it opened up some very interesting discussions about the place of contemporary dance in a society which values classical dance very highly. She also touched on the challenges of managing such a huge project, explaining that things operate very differently: "In India, a dancer is his own manager, his own lighting designer, his own everything... The idea of partnership in India is hard... it's a very hierarchical society, very invested in central figures of power, [but] there's a can-do attitude – things get done.” Sometimes this happens in unconventional ways – I'm still not sure how Neha managed to patch two 650 lumen projectors together to replace a missing 1200 lumen proctor! Sarah Trist agreed with Neha that touring in India was often challenging, particularly in terms of technical requirements: “What you can expect in India are really great audiences who really love dance... they're really open and receptive [but] you're going to need to compromise on equipment, on dance floors etc.”

Joêl Daniel from Champloo dance told the group that, "The workshops were humbling – people travelling nine hours for 10am for a two hour class... you wouldn't get that in England! There's obviously a massive passion for dance [in India], and not just classical stuff.” That passion was evident from every company's experience, and was something came up again and again. Shreela Ghosh, Head of Arts in South Asia, reiterated this point: "The region may not be the best-developed, but there is a hunger for knowledge, contacts and connections.” Sanjoy Roy shared his experiences of India and the work he saw, including a fascinating article for Caravan magazine.

Neha raised the issue that many parents in India don't want their kids to become contemporary dancers because there's no money in it, and everyone hoped that projects such as Impuse have shown that there is an appetite, and an audience, for contemporary dance. Shreela said that when she and Neha return to India the conversation needs to continue – across both India and the UK. If you'd like to feed in, use the #impulsedance hashtag on Twitter.



Eleanor Turney is a freelance journalist and editor. @eleanorturney 

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