Dance diaries 
- Geeta Ballal, Bangalore
February 29, 2008 

On the 5th of January, I set out to Kolkata to attend what was called DanceIntense 2, organized by Sampad South Asian Arts in collaboration with Ananda Shankar Centre for Performing Arts, Kolkata. After a grueling 2 months of my company’s home production work, this was something I was least excited to see – two weeks of intense dance program. 

Nevertheless, in spite of my initial reluctance, I was taken aback to see the venue they had chosen - Vedic Village - a beautiful expanse of greenery and ayurveda, out of city limits. I welcomed this very nice change from my routine studio rounds. What followed in the next two weeks was very special to every artiste who has been in the program. Here are glimpses into my diary that I kept during my stay in Vedic Village. I hope you can experience through these little paragraphs, the beautiful journey I experienced through DanceIntense 2. 

Jan 6, 2008
It is my first day here in Vedic village. A sleepless night precedes a whimsical morning. At breakfast I meet the others who are to be part of my two weeks here. It is a friendly encounter – speaking to each one of them, knowing their backgrounds and so on. I was curious to meet all the Indians of foreign citizenship. Glad that my colleague had traveled with me, I soon got to discuss what I had learned of all of them and few from her as well. 

The twelve day long dance intense would begin with a performance by each participant, in this case, 17 in total. We are through a quick rehearsal in the morning, which is followed by the performance evening. It’s freezing cold but we got to dance nevertheless. I retire for the night feeling very excited and tired. 

Jan 7
A quick breakfast and off to our very first Intense session – Yoga with Navtej Singh Johar. A methodical, thorough but refreshing session is soon followed by a session of body conditioning by Natasha Bakht – strict, lenient, ‘rule’r and our caretaker at DanceIntense.  The participants are still trying to get used to the idea of dancing for 12 hours in a day, when we are introduced to the post lunch sessions taken by Aditi Mangaldas – who talked about various inspirations and interesting choreographing concepts. The day finally has ended and I was aching to get to my room to discuss the first ‘Intense’ day with my colleague. I can feel the next day is waiting on me like a hunting hawk… patient and deadly…

Jan 9
The work-outs get only better. Iron-man, push ups, abs exercises, triceps, thigh muscles et al. My sore body is speaking for the rigor that Intense proceeded with. On the dance front, it goes one step ahead with Preeti Patel’s Manipuri and Thang-ta lessons. I enjoyed the session thoroughly though I am stuck with the torso moving bit. 

Jan 10
Oh… an aching day today with Anil Panchal taking a session on Mayurbanj Chaau. A thorough taskmaster and a perfectionist that he is, he also choreographs excellently. I only know that this will get ‘better’ (don’t miss the pun) tomorrow. 

Jan 12
Can’t help thinking that tomorrow is an off from dance and that is making me smile. Today only two sessions - contemporary Bharatanatyam influenced movements by Roger Sinha and a creative class by Mamata Shankar. I went out to the city and quickly gulped down the yummy golgappas with my colleague and few other ‘Intensers.’ Some shopping, running around, beautiful heritage sites, old buildings and the typical Bongla mishti shops are what we have for a chilled out Kolkatan weekend.

Jan 14
I can’t believe one week has passed and I am set for another grueling week of Intense dance. We had a new tutor today - Bawren Tavaziva with African contemporary movements. I almost died trying to get all those hip movements, rhythm, contemporary and ballet movements in place…  I am so exhausted that I can’t think of anything other than a hot bath and some refreshing sleep. 

Jan 16     
Although the Intense is physically demanding, mentally it is highly stimulating as well. After doing some trimming job on Bawren’s choreography work, we have a new entrant in our trainers’ list, Nirupama Rajendra. She takes a session on Karanas and parts of Natyashastra that involves the Navarasas. It is a beautiful extension to the knowledge that we have gathered so far and I enjoyed it immensely.  

We have last 3 days left and I can’t imagine how I managed so far. I am quite proud that I have so many styles for use now. I am actually thinking of all the fun time with the other Intensers through the last ten days – masala chai breaks, gossiping together in our rooms, late night parties (strictly dance only), choreography talks and just chatting about anything under the sun.. Sigh!! It was really good.  

Jan 17
The last day of dance sessions! In another two days, we shall put up our show, based on our entire dancing experience from the Dance Intense. So we are geared up for the rehearsals. Today’s highlight was that I traveled for 3 hours to watch a dance performance by Pina Bausch’s company. It was worth all the travel I must say. I was wondering if we could put up a show like this with the limited access to dance extensions available here. For now, I am thinking of my performance the day after.

Jan 19
Whew!! What an end to an exciting two week dance fiesta. Our performance was not bad after all, like the way all of us had imagined. I can’t help feel a mixture of feelings – happy that I am going home (to mom’s anna saaru and curd rice), sad to leave all the others who have been so much part of my life in the last few days, anxiety as to whether I’ll be able to contact them after I am home… 

I am thinking much of those two women who have made this entire program happen – Piali didi and Tanushree didi. Any thanks is just not enough to these two women who have been with us through this program – helping us, hearing our woes and of course those magical hugs… 

But for now all I can say is that I am content that I have finished yet another beautiful phase of my career by being part of this wonderful venture where I lived, loved and sustained dance.

Geetha Ballal is a member of Bangalore based contemporary dance company Nritarutya. She participated in the 'Dance Intense' workshop organised by Sampad Asian Arts, Burmingham, and Anand Shankar Institute, Kolkata, at the Vedic Village, on the outskirts of Kolkata from Jan 6 - 19, 2008.