The becoming of oneness

The becoming of oneness

When one sees the performance of contemporary dance exponent Astad Deboo, it’s nothing short of an experience, the merger of  inside and outside world. Time stands still when his ‘whirling dervish dance’ like ‘Chakkars’ build pace and  move towards a union with the unknown sub-conscious delight. 

The pioneer of modern dance in India, Astad Deboo speaks about his stint in dance, collaborations and infrastructure of auditoriums

When one sees the performance of contemporary dance exponent Astad Deboo, it’s nothing short of an experience, the merger of inside and outside world. Time stands still when his ‘whirling dervish dance’ like ‘Chakkars’ build pace and move towards a union with the unknown sub-conscious delight.

Tell us about your initial training in Kathak and Kathakali.
I took training in Kathak from Guru Prahlad Das of Kolkata. It was more of attending classes and learning as per the routine schedule. When I started training in Kathakali under Guru E K Panicker, there was that sense of ‘questioning’. Maybe I was coming to an adult age and the Guru Shishya relationship was more of trying to imbibe the happenings around me and the communication with Guru was always to seek light out of the darkness.

How was the response at home and in public spaces for a male dancer in your young er days?
I was very fortunate that my parents were very supportive of my passion to learn dance. There was never any tension and I studied dance with great joy. Similarly, it was all fine in school and there was no element of nagging from any quarters about a boy learning dance.

There is something unique about your costumes. Can you elaborate?
It’s all about choosing colours from the palette. I do give some inputs before my designers execute the piece for me. Established designers like Archana Shah, Krishna Mehta and Jade (Monica and Karishma) design my costumes.

What made you innovate and approach dance as a contemporary form of presentation?
In those days I found a lot of innovation happening in the field of theatre, visual arts and music. But classical dance was always more or less confined to the tales of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the religious or Bhakti movement. During this time, I attended a dance show by an American dance school. I was really astonished by the pace of the dance, the lighting effects and many other innovative approaches to the whole presentation. Uttara Asha Coorlawala came from the Martha Graham School and I had the first brush with contemporary creative work. After this experience I yearned to go abroad and study this form of innovation and luckily my parents supported me on a journey to London School of Contemporary Dance, Wuppertal Dance Company, Germany and Pilobolus Dance Company, USA. It was nearly eight years of training before I came back home.

How did the collaboration with Manipur martial arts team happen?
Since a long time the martial arts of Manipur have been very inspiring. Sometime back the Ministry of Culture sponsored a joint team for a performance at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Since then, there has been no looking back. Guru Seityaban Singh has allowed me to collaborate with the dynamic performers and it’s already 11 years into the collaboration. It’s a very interesting combination when I twirl in one direction and the Manipuri dancers move in circular motion around me in the reverse direction.

Do you feel that creative arts programmes are well supported financially by various public and private bodies?
It’s nearly 37 years as a professional dancer in India and I still find that my performances have not reached the satellite towns or even places like Trivandrum. For that matter, I have visited Hyderabad only twice in my life for a performance.

How are the infrastructure facilities in India and abroad?
Not all countries abroad, have great auditoriums. But in India most of the auditoriums lack the technical support in terms of infrastructure that is required to bring about a successful creative performance. Most of the time, we have to adjust and come out with a workable solution. A lot needs to be done in this area.

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