The Dance Intense project: an overview 
- Madhuri Upadhya, Bangalore
April 28, 2008 

It all seems like a dream now! Dream of a dancer come true then….

Dance Intense- as the name suggests, was a challenging 2 weeks of indulging in dance. 19 participants from countries - India, Canada, USA and UK came together to explore new possibilities. Some to learn new techniques, some to network, some to learn the choreographic process of veterans and some to just enjoy the whole experience of attending a residency workshop. Geetha and I from Nritarutya, (Indian Contemporary Dance Company) ended up there the next day after our home production, exhausted because of all the hard work. We were happy to see The Vedic Village, located on the outskirts of the busy city Kolkata, West Bengal, India, which was beautiful in its ambience, highly inspirational for an artiste. 

The concept of Dance Intense Program, conceived by Sampad Asian Arts Director, Piali Ray and executed in association with Tanushree Shankar of Anand Shankar Institute, is avant-garde and highly progressive in its thought.  The whole idea of artists working and networking together as a community toward the development of dance in the society is highly commendable. I thought the most important lesson we learnt in the whole workshop was how and why we artists should work as a collective to build a self sustaining industry called ‘Dance.’ An industry parallel to the IT world thriving and lucrative to millions of artists.

The systemized workshop with a disciplined approach toward dance and its foundation is a good example for aspiring dancers who want to take it up as a profession. The tutors got the participants to focus on the quality and procedure that should be involved in any creation. The program was a complete package on dance with seminars from experts in various allied arts, guest workshops, visiting impresarios, observers, fitness routines, theory and practical sessions, performance, choreography sessions and professional structuring. 
An interesting aspect of the workshop was the involvement of observers like Chitraleka Bolar, Natasha Bakht and Lata Pada, each an expert in her own field, were present to guide us throughout the grueling residency program. Coming from the ‘Guru-Shishya  Parampara,’ it was good to see gurus like Tanushree Shankar and Chitraleka Bolar encouraging their students and sharing a close relationship with them.

My experience with the tutors -
Aditi Mangaldas: Just imagine the stillness of a fast arrow moving against the sky, flock of birds – one leads, others follow, another leads and the rest follow, if time was reversible….  These are the kind of concepts you are made to visualize while working with a passionate dancer like her. 
A photograph of 2 monks walking in unison inspired her choreography session with us, which we later presented at the Science City, Kolkata.

Navtej Singh Johar: He gave us excellent routines in yogasanas every morning which prepared us mentally and physically to carry on for the rest of the day. He has an incredible understanding of the body and gave us insights like the head aligns the body, unlike the popular belief that spine brings the body to line. 

Natasha Bhakt: She was more of a friend than a tutor and all of us had a great time together. She was in charge of body conditioning and was the only tutor who was present throughout the workshop. One thing that really struck me about her was her discipline. Natasha Bhakt would always be present before us at the studio doing her warm-ups! She systematically and scientifically conditioned the dancers with cardio, stretching, strength training, balance, focus and breathing. She gradually built up the stamina of each one of us and gave us good tips like to use iron man for instant warm-up. 

Preeti Patel: She gave us an excellent presentation and comprehensive information about Manipuri dance. She had come with very good thang tha dancers and her whole persona was very soothing and elegant. Her presentation was a combination of pre-Vaishnavite dances, thang tha, classical (Ras Leela) and Sankeertan (dance with dhol kind of instruments). She asked each one of us to choreograph on a theme which she later beautifully composed into a sequence. 

Anil Panchal: He gave us a workshop on Mayurbanj Chau, which was physically very demanding. His movements were tough, very flowing and crisp at the same time.  What one can observe from his workshop is his good sense of group choreography and understanding of space. 

Mamta Shankar: She was a guest tutor at the Dance Intense who along with her troupe performed very interesting theatrical execution of any given theme. It also made me realize that dancers have a universal way of moving subconsciously.

Roger Sinha: He showed us excerpts of his award winning work ‘Burning Skin’ which poses a lot of questions on racism and his piece shot in a museum, which experimented with sound remarkably. His technique, circular, simple and very effective has mudras – pathaka, mukula, ala padma, shukachunchi and kataka mukha with his movement vocabulary. His whole methodology of working like using negative space, connecting to the alphabets, reproducing his improvised movements exactly the way it is shot etc. is so creative and spontaneous. I personally loved his movements, as it was easy to get into my system. We all grew so fond of him that he gave us dry fruits as a parting gift. Sigh! 

Bawren Tavaziva: The first thing I remember about his workshop is choreography with the use of prop. We had so much fun while presenting his sequence at the Science Center. He taught us some very ethnic and sensuous African folk movements. He is a very intelligent and sensitive choreographer who understands how each of the dancer moves.  Lot of material is darted on dancers after which he carefully segregates them. He has an admirable sense of group choreography and contact work.

Nirupama and Rajendra: Their workshop was extremely informative and opened a whole new world for me. Inspired by Dr. Padma Subramanyam’s book on Natya Shastra, Nirupama gave us a brilliant insight on karanas and chaaris. Her vivacious personality and enthusiasm rubbed off on all the participants when we were learning about bhu and akasha charis. She has also extensively researched and aesthetically incorporated these karanas into Bharathanatyam. We got a glimpse of it when we watched her performance at the Science City and were awe struck by her grace and presentation.

Madhuri Upadhya is the artistic director of Bangalore based Indian contemporary dance company Nritarutya.