Imagining Improvisation

[all the images above are by Krishnendu Adhikari]

“My kathak informed body was absorbing (like a sponge) everything while observing how one makes a movement and sculpts  a space through different methods of application.
The body of any dancer regardless of any form has its own presence and being! One needs to understand the body, the links between different movements and being conscious of the strength of its centre.”
Residency participant Debashree Bhattacharya
(kathak dancer, choreographer and teacher)


While working on Made in Bangladesh, I met Anika Bendel who was the choreographer’s assistant and production manager for the project. Anika is trained in ballet and contemporary dance, and we began to exchange sessions in kathak and ballet. This alternating student-teacher relationship and our common interest in body awareness and movement principles developed into a conversation about approaches to improvisation in different dance forms, and sowed the seeds for this residency project. 

emailer-collage-1What happens when two improvisation techniques developed with and from the ballet body and concepts – the Improvisation Technologies of William Forsythe and the Nine-Point System of Amanda Miller – meet dancers trained in kathak, who enter, receive and interpret them with a strong conceptual knowledge of their own background?

Facilitated by Anika Bendel and Vikram Iyengar, the ten day residency was an invigorating mix of dipping into books on dance concepts and histories, confusions and animated discussions about what contemporary dance could be, as well as experimenting, exploring and discovering with and through the body. The responses to any one impulse or question greatly varied from individual to individual, sometimes constructively, sometimes leading to an impasse forcing creative detours and conversations.

The whole experience took unexpected turns, encouraged challenges, encountered contradictions, and awakened curiosity about other ways of seeing and doing. The residency culminated in a public sharing through a lecture-performance at the Goethe Institut Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata.

The residency was held in partnership with Ranan at the Ranan Workspace in Calcutta, and supported by the Goethe Institut Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata. Some photographs and videos from the process below:

The Participants
It was imperative that the participants were well trained in kathak to enable them to be equal contributors to the exploratory and experimental workshop-based process.
From Ranan, the participants are:
Debashree Bhattacharya, Ranan co-founder, kathak dancer, choreographer and teacher
Sohini Debnath, kathak dancer, choreographer and teacher
Samila Bhattacharya, kathak dancer and teacher
Rhea Dawn, kathak dancer and yoga practitioner
Indudipa Sinha, kathak dancer and actress
Our guest participant was kathak dancer Shoma Sharmin from Dhaka, Bangladesh

Click here to read blog posts about the experience by the residency participants.

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