Cloud kathak 3: The Art of Making Dances

I have been making dances as long as I can remember. Even when I was six years old in a small town in India, I would gather my friends, arrange then in formations and then make up my own movements to well known semi-classical Bollywood songs. Or I would design actions to children’s poetry. I always felt I had a right to create my own dance and never felt I had to imitate what someone else taught me. I guess the habit stuck.

By the time I reached high school in Canada I had made many dances, both for solo and group. But I hungered for training to be a ‘real’ choreographer. Somewhere in my travels I came across the book, The Art of Making Dances, by Doris Humphrey. Although my training was in Indian dance and Ms. Humphrey spoke about western Modern dance, I was home. Everything she said made complete sense to me.

I understood the fundamentals of choreography like they were second nature. Space, time, energy, movement and motivation were amongst the main elements discussed in this seminal work on choreography. I was delighted with newly found vocabulary, which could help me in my quest to become a choreographer. I immediately began applying these concepts to my studio explorations. The book became my constant companion until it fell apart a few years ago.

Dancers trained in Indian classical dance forms such as Kathak face different challenges in their quest to create dances. Our training process doesn’t stop at body conditioning or exploring movement. We are taught the form through repertoire. Many dancers continue performing this repertoire exactly as it is received and excel at nuanced interpretations of this cherished legacy.

But many of us want to create, explore, re-fashion, re-interpret the dance. We are excited by new contexts, new text, new music and much more. Choreographers, like artists in other media, can be inspired by anything. A floating cloud, the sound of the rain, a story, a poem, a dream or a fantasy…any of these can lead to the creation of a dance.

But how do we get from the idea to the finished work? This is the process of creation and choreography. And it is to explore this together with other dancers that I came up with the idea of ANGIKAM: Seminar in Kathak and Choreography. I felt we needed a forum to gather and explore the art of choreography for Indian dance. Here we could share ideas and techniques, find out how the fundamentals of space, time, energy, movement and motivation apply to our dance training.

So in September of 2015 some of us gathered at the Citadel Centre of Dance in Toronto to begin discovering our own dance impulses. Under the guidance of excellent mentors who shared their journeys with us we started a journey of our own.  Now it is 2016, and in a few days time we are about to begin the second edition of the ANGIKAM seminar. The making of dances continues.

Photo caption: Manzil Kathak Group/Choreography – Deepti Gupta