Featuring kathak, chhau, puppetry, Sufi whirling and some yoga, Astad Deboo’s celebrated Interpreting Tagore shouldn’t be missed. After all, this is the man who once collaborated with Pink Floyd and is now just as productive with both the Tang Ta dancers of Manipur and street children.
A pioneer in contemporary dance in India, Deboo’s unique dance style defines him. As for the Padma Shri award winner’s popular creation, Interpreting Tagore, which comes to The Music Academy on February 19, he says, “This performance is a tribute to Tagore. My dance company is working with street children from Salaam Baalak, an NGO in Delhi. I have been mentoring them and they all belong to the age group of 18 to 30. There are eight of them, then there is myself and (poet) Akash Khurana.’’ Incidentally, there was a solo version of Interpreting Tagore that was designed by Deboo for 150 years of Tagore celebrations in the 90s . “ I haven’t performed the solo version after I collaborated with the kids,”says Deboo. This is the production’s first time in Chennai, after successful runs in places like Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Andorra.
Talking about the contemporary dance scene in India, Deboo is of the opinion that the term is used blasphemously. “There are very few people who have a lot of substance in what they create. Most of them create something which in a way is contemporary but is not solid. There are several dancers who take classes around the country but I identify Attakalari (Bangalore) as one school that has diploma courses for students,” says Deboo, who next focuses on the small audience that comes to see contemporary shows. “It was a struggle pulling the audience to shows when I started. It still is in a lot of ways, as I am producing all my shows but I do not have the finances to have ads for them,” explains the dancer who has been performing for the past 45 years.
Theatre comes first
According to Deboo, 66, it is his passion that keeps him going. “As an artiste there is an idea always brewing in your head. You just need to recognise it and work on it when it is time,” he says, pointing out that theatre rules the scene in India. ‘‘People are still skeptical about dance. But the situation has improved since 1978, which was when I started,” he concludes.
At The Music Academy on February 17, from 7 pm onwards. Tickets are priced from Rs 200 onwards. Details: eventjini.com
- Mrinalini Sundar