Made in Bangladesh

“Made in Bangladesh is made from heavy material, it doesn’t equivocate.
That’s what it’s about. Otherwise: cheap work is just used, not respected.
We have apparently forgotten how to value real value.”
Melanie Suchy, TANZ Berlin, May 2015
read more press excerpts …

poster in Lorrach, Germany

In November 2013, I sat across a table with German director Helena Waldmann at a small café in Berlin. We were discussing her forthcoming project Made in Bangladesh, which would work with 12 kathak dancers from Bangladesh to create a performance piece inspired by and responding to lives of garment industry workers in Bangladesh and those of dancers in Europe. Conceptually, the parallels she drew were brave and provocative, the visual references which led her to kathak were fresh and compelling, and the comment it wished to make was strident and political. So when she asked me to join her on the project as co-choreographer, I needed little or no persuasion.

Made in Bangladesh choreographed by Helena Waldmann and Vikram Iyengar, explores the notorious sweat shops of the garment industry and the supposedly legitimate artistic “sweat shop ” of a dance studio – and comes to the conclusion that they have more in common than we would like to admit. Both dancers and seamstresses work at the expense of their health, fobbed off with low wages and at constant risk of losing their jobs to someone even younger, even more flexible. The result of the encounters between two separate worlds become part of the choreography and of its multimedia extension in the form of video clips and sound collages.
Made in Bangladesh is a production by Helena Waldmann and ecotopia dance productions in collaboration with SHADHONA – A Center for the Advancement of Southasian Culture (BD) and Goethe-Institut Bangladesh. Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.
Visit production webpage …


Helena and Vikram
Helena Waldmann and Vikram Iyengar Image: Wonge Bergmann

“What I learned with Helena was the importance of giving time for something to emerge; to repeat something, to go beyond a fatigue point until a sort of sub-conscious, liminal space takes over, which you could never have imagined: the approach of abstracting elements of dance to a great degree, where they become completely metaphorical not representative, interpretative or decorative; and the ability to convey a clear narrative and make a political point without telling any sort of linear story.”
Read full interview with Vikram Iyengar on the making of the production …

“My role covered various aspects. I was training them in aspects of Kathak to reach a similar level of understanding and technical standard. There was the constant generation of material through improvisation using specific and isolated elements of Kathak: footwork, spins and hand gestures.  The isolation of elements is not natural to Kathak. This was usually in response to Helena’s ideas – what she wanted the scene to be, the mood and texture she was looking for, or what she wanted to communicate.   For instance, we found that the more graceful, lyrical and expressional aspects of Kathak did not suit the production at all. But we could only discover that after having tried it in various ways for various things, and then throwing it all out.”

Performance History

Made in Bangladesh  was rehearsed in Dhaka and Berlin between December 2013 and November 2014. The premiere tour opened in November 2014 in Ludwigshafen followed by ten more performances in Europe. The piece had six international tours between the premiere and July 2016.

November-December 2014: 11 performances in Ludwigshafen, Dusseldorf, Karlsruhe, Lorrach, Darmstadt, Nuremberg, Jena (Germany), Baden (Switzerland) and Luxembourg
January 2015: 6 performances in Trichur, Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta (India) and Dhaka (Bangladesh)
May 2015: 2 performances in Munich (Germany)
September 2015: 4 performances in Umea (Sweden) and Hannover (Germany)
October 2015: 5 performances in Kempten, Leverkusen, Ludwigsburg, Bad Homburg (Germany) and Den Haag (The Netherlands)
July 2016: 2 performances in Warsaw (Poland) and Bolzano (Italy)