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Practice, Performance and the Performer : Analyzing the role of ‘Preparation’ in Kathak Dance

Shruti Ghosh, Macquarie University, Sydney

 Yatohastostatodrishtiryato, Drishtitatomana

Yatomanatatobhava, Yatobhavatato rasa

Tatradwabhnayaseba, Pradhaanmitikathyake

(Where the hand goes  the eyes follow, where the eyes go the mind follows, where the mind goes there is feeling, where there is feeling there is emotion)

 Introduction

 This is one of those popular slokas from Natya Sastra [ii] that is oft repeated by the teachers, students and practitioners of Indian classical dance. It is one of those quintessential imperatives that are drilled into the minds of the performers in course of their training. Interrogating the instant reception and popularity of the sloka, I notice its efficacy perhaps lies in its prescriptive tone through which it spells out certain ‘know how s’ about Nritya or acting in dance and indicates how to prepare oneself for acting. Our understanding of the nuances of the sloka would be limited if we consider only the component of acting. I shall therefore also include in my discussion, the other aspect i.e. Nritta, which refers to the abstract dance movements.  How do I prepare myself as a Kathak dancer is the question I have often asked. What do I prepare and for whom? In an attempt to address these questions, this paper analyses the role of ‘preparation’ in a dance practice. There are two crucial components which form part of preparation – ‘dancer’s individual preparation’ and ‘audience reception’. I note further that, an interrogation of the concept of ‘preparation’ also yields varying understanding of ‘Performance’.

Charles Olson and the Quest for a Quantum Poetics

Douglas Duhaime, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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Abstract

This paper investigates the ways the American poet Charles Olson helped twentieth-century writers create a “quantum poetics” that could reflect the discoveries of modern relativity theories and particle physics. In the first third of my paper, I show how Olson’s seminal essay “Projective Verse” advances a method of reading poetry which draws from Einstein’s special theory of relativity. In the second third of my paper, I discuss the ways Olson drew from quantum mechanics in his poetry and prose. There I also show how Olson’s writing invites readers to construct a method of reading rooted in physicist Niels Bohr’s principle of “complementarity.” In the final third of my paper, I show how Olson used Einstein’s theory of a unified field model to theorize poetry as a unified field of action.

Healing through Hip Hop in the Slums of Phnom Penh Cambodia

Romi Grossberg, Independent Researcher and Performance Activist , Australia

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Abstract

Local non-government organisation ‘Tiny Toones’ is the first and only of its kind in Cambodia, to use hip hop to engage with, and empower the most disadvantaged children and youth in Phnom Penh. Working with young people from backgrounds of drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, gang life, family violence and extreme poverty, it offers creative arts alongside education and life skills. Teaching life lessons through break-dance, hip hop dance, lyric writing, rapping, and art, Tiny Toones ‘speaks street’ to those that need it most, empowering them to believe in themselves, trust themselves and make better choices about their futures. The staff and students of Tiny Toones are living proof of how the creative arts can be used to change lives and free young people from their past.

Modern Rendition of Ancient Arts: Negotiating Values in Traditional Odissi Dance

Shreelina Ghosh, Dakota State University

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Abstract

Recent innovations in remediating performances allow dancers to perform, collaborate, teach, learn and forge new inter-body relationships that substitute the traditional Guru-Shishya or master-disciple relationship. The divide between technologized and traditional practices in dance creates a productive space that can help scholars understand how digital and networked technologies are transforming embodied cultural memory. Tradition-technology encounters and formations of a deviant discourse challenge the dominant (traditional) norms of embodied cultural memory. My qualitative study of the field reveals that innovation has been encouraged by the most members of the dance community. However, if mediated dance compromises values associated with the dance, like its sacredness, the importance of the body, and the importance of the Guru, it can be potentially subversive to the traditional practice. The main points of conflict between traditional dance and technologically mediated practices indicate moments of compromise in the traditional values.

Performing “Fine Arts”: Dance as a Source of Inspiration in Impressionism

Johannis Tsoumas,  Hellenic Open University, Athens

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Abstract

The proposed article aims to highlight the importance of the most significant performing art which, according to the author’s opinion, is dance, in influencing one of the most magnificent movements in world art history: Impressionism. Through an diachronic and deep cut in time, namely, the last decades of the nineteenth century France, a period commonly known as fin de siècle, this article attempts to illuminate the unseen sides of this magical “physical ceremony” which was meant to affect dramatically not only art, but also the social status of the country. The process of human movements, especially female ones, through the interaction of body and music was ultimately the cornerstone of the configuration of not only the aesthetics, but the overall ideology of some of the most prominent representatives of Impressionism, but also Post-Impressionism, as in many cases it determined their own lives. The imposing and much debated waltz, the classical ballet as well as the charming can-can and, its ancestor, the playful quadrille, were harmonically blended with the enchanting tools and materials of the Impressionist artists and the result was some of the most astonishing works of art in the world art history.

The Therapeutic Value of Indian Classical, Folk and Innovative Dance Forms

Arpita Chatterjee, Barasat College, West Bengal State University, India

Dance provides an active, non-competitive form of exercise that has potential positive effects for physical health as well as mental and emotional wellbeing. Dance therapy is based on the idea that body and mind are co-relational. The therapeutic approaches with various forms of Indian dances are a new entrant to dance literature. Ayurveda held dance as a power of healing (therapy) and inner awareness (psychology). Indian philosophy also supports the facts of Sangeet (song, dance and music) for benefit of human health physically as well as mentally. The powerful dance form of Bhangra (Punjab), Karagam (Tamilnadu), Chou, Rayabese, Dhali (West Bengal) gives good health and strength. The fast footwork of Kathak dance helps to release anger and tension. Manipuri dancers make rounded movements and avoid any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines. It gives them undulating and soft appearance, proper body control and peace of mind. All these body movements, body balancing, expression, muscle movement, muscle constriction and relaxation have a strong effect on therapeutic movements. In India today the dance therapists are conscious about this matter and in therapeutic sessions they actually improvise different dance movements according to the need.

Signifying The Self: Intersections of Class, Caste and Gender in Rabindranath Tagore’s Dance Drama Chandalika (1938)

Sutapa Chaudhuri, Dr. Kanailal Bhattacharyya College, Howrah, India

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Abstract

Much has been said about the way Tagore views his women in his poems, essays, novels and drama. Yet it is the dance dramas of Tagore, a genre quite unique in his time and milieu, which portray the radical nature of Tagore’s conception of women and the maturation of their selfhood. The dance dramas illustrate Tagore’s bold and perceptive experimentation with various literary forms and techniques and the radical nature of his ideological orientation. Among the dance dramas of Tagore, Chandalika has a special place as it foregrounds the theme of female desire in an untouchable girl, a tabooed subject in his times, indeed even now in Bengali writings. This paper tries to show how Tagore uses the nuances of the dance form to showcase the intersections of caste, class and gender as well as the evolution of selfhood in Prakriti, the Chandal girl.

Soyinka and Yoruba Sculpture: Masks of Deification and Symbolism

Gilbert Tarka Fai, University of Maroua, Cameroon

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Abstract

The Yoruba mask is a piece of sculpture that is both artistic and functional. The carved work fulfils one or more of several functions—sacred or profane, personal or communal, serious or satirical. As an object it has only its relatively insignificant quota of vital energy that is found, according to African ontology, in all matter and substance of the visible world- animal, vegetable and mineral. But the Yoruba mask also has a force that extends to the world of spirits and gods. These masks also have the dual effect of transforming the wearer and the ambivalence of serving good and evil ends. This indicates that the Yoruba mask apart from its spiritual essence is a symbol of great complexity and ambiguity. It is from this great community of sculptors and from the ambivalent quality of the mask as image and symbol that some of Wole Soyinka’s creative writings emerge. This paper argues that Wole Soyinka uses his native Yoruba sculpture, and the mask in particular, to dramatise the essential spiritual continuity of human nature through the dramatic appearance of gods and the spirits of the ancestors in the world of the living during the dance of possession.

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