March 3, 2017 12:28:54 am
Twelve years ago, Mumbai-based contemporary dancer Astad Deboo came across the pung cholom drummers of Manipur. “They were young, vigorous and steeped in their own cultural traditions, performing with their instruments in a comforting cycle of familiar security. I wanted them to change,” says Deboo, about the birth of Rhythm Divine I in 2007. He took the drums away, and realised that the movements of playing a dhol, khartal or other instruments were contained in the bodies of the drummers. Deboo integrated his own vocabulary of controlled gestures with the drummers’ body movements — from the leaps in the air to the pirouettes on the ground — to create a piece that is at once minimalistic and packed with layers.
Rhythm Divine II: River Runs Deep, which followed in 2014, revolves around “a more open articulation of old fears through bold, new creative choreography that reflects in music and movement”. “I was looking at the political situation and felt that it was time for a brasher engagement with restlessness and frustration,” he says. Rhythm Divine II: River Runs Deep has toured across India as well as Paris and Lisbon, among others.
Working with the drummers and their guru, Seityaban Singh, head of Shree Shree Govindji Nat Sankirtan in Imphal, Deboo explores the ordinary life of people and builds up to the “sense of insecurity and fear against which many people in the region conduct their existence”. He adds, “There are very subtle movements of rebelliousness and attack. The build up to the crescendo is gradual and powerful. With the drummers coming into play, the tempo becomes frantic.” The performances, he notes, has been received well by the artist community of Manipur. “When I am using their traditions, my idea is not to plagiarise but to bring it out on another level,” he says.
It will be staged at Kamani auditorium today at 7 pm. Passes are available at Kamani and Bahrisons, Khan Market
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