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CHAALI...taking dance to its audience

by Bharat Sharma, Bangalore

Nov 2002

Dance is rooted in the act of performance - a conversation between viewer and dancer is cardinal to survival of the art form. Chaali aims to strengthen the bond between dance and its audience by expanding opportunities for performance and dialogue in diverse cultural settings in India.

A feasibility study was undertaken prior to launch of Highway Performance Circuits in first quarter of 2001. Field research included an analysis of audience perceptions across regional, linguistic/cultural and urban/rural boundaries; survey of repertoires of dance groups in India; networking individuals and organizations in south India to host residencies; evolving strategies to access audiences; and planning logistics.

A need was felt to have a name for the initiative to facilitate easier communication. 'Chaali' is first basic 'walk' exercise in the traditional dance form Mayurbhanj Chhau from Orissa that takes a dancer from one point in space to another. 'Chaali' now represents the core idea behind this endeavor - of extending space of dancers through travel on highways into the performance arena of community.

Round I of 40 days began on January 24, 2001 and concluded on March 5 and covered approximately 5000 kilometers along coastal corridor of Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and through Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The 37-event circuit (with 18 performances and 19 workshops/lecture-demonstrations) traversed national and state highways, roads under construction and by lanes, and passed through metropolitan cities, state capitals, small towns and villages.

Performances were mounted in varied spaces - well-equipped theatres, open air spaces, black boxes, makeshift stages, an art gallery and a tourist complex. The light and sound equipment that was carried in Tempo Traveler van with 10-member artistic team helped in maintaining basic standards of presentations.

A network of individuals and organizations in local settings made admirable efforts to host residencies and present choreographic works. The profile of audiences was diverse, and aggregate attendance for performances was approximately 8000, and for workshops/lecture-demonstrations approximately 850.

Samudra, Thiruvananthapuram presented excerpts from 'Sounds of Silence' choreographed by Madhu Gopinath and Vakkom Sajeev; Dancers' Guild, Kolkata presented excerpts from 'Krouncha Katha' and other productions choreographed by late Manjushree Chaki-Sircar and Ranjabati Sircar; Bhoorang, Bangalore presented 'Phir wohee kahani?' choreographed by Bharat Sharma. Programmes were interspersed with select solos by Bharat Sharma and Tripura Kashyap including 'Anguish', '120 Footsteps', 'Man and Masks' (choreographed by Narendra Sharma) and 'Rippi Rippi di Kora'.

Workshops and lecture-demonstrations played a crucial role in furthering goals of project. It fostered dialogue with local artists (such as with theatre groups and dancers), addressed issues related to work of voluntary organizations (such as those working with people with disabilities, street children and NGOs) and gave inputs to local dancers on varied techniques (such as traditional styles, improvisation and composition).

The first performance circuit got substantive and wide coverage from media, especially the vernacular press.

Chaali's success in Round I has prompted a team of fifteen, including nationally and internationally acclaimed dancers/groups, to venture forth once again on highways from November 10 till December 22, 2002 to hold residencies in Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Andhra Pradesh. Workshops will also be offered in traditional and modern dance techniques, new approaches in choreography, dance therapy, composition and improvisation, dance appreciation and lighting design.

Chaali is fortunate to receive enthusiastic support from hosts who have volunteered to organize residencies in their local environments to help connect artists with audiences. Donors have provided overall support for the circuit to be run on a professional basis. Artists have done their bit to produce new choreographic works that may have an appeal to local contexts.

This symbiosis has seeds of a crucial partnership that could augur well for Chaali project in coming years. Round II proposes to build bridges with audiences, local hosts, donor community and artists to develop a support system for dance.

Given that contemporary/modern dance field is expanding and opportunities available are getting diverse, there is a need to evolve a dedicated dance company that addresses artistic issues of a support system on an ongoing basis.

Bhoorang proposes to take up this responsibility and plans to evolve a dance laboratory in coming years. Choreographers and teachers from India and abroad will be invited to choreograph new works and develop teaching methodologies that are relevant for Chaali network, and to the dance world at large. Cultural contours of the proposed laboratory have been set by boundaries of circuits traced by Chaali on highways.

In addition, Chaali will continue to address issues of expanding opportunities by inviting independent artists to showcase their choreography during highway performance circuits. This year Samudra, Thiruvananthapuram has been invited to present their vibrant dances to audiences along the travel route.

Chaali plans to launch highway performance circuits annually, and in all humility, seeks ongoing support from people who believe that dance ought to go to its audience.

Project staff:
Project Director: Bharat Sharma
Project Coordinator: Tripura Kashyap
Project Coordinator (Goa): Crisologo Furtado

New choreography for Round II has been commissioned through support from Fundacao Oriente.

Bharat Sharma
Project Director, Chaali
1185, 35th 'C' Cross
28th Main, 4th 'T' Block
Jayanagar, Bangalore 560 041
Ph: (91-80) - 6642662
Mobile: 98442-49334

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