Choreographer Astad Deboo, and Manipuri drummers stage Rhythm Divine II this weekend
India’s acclaimed contemporary choreographer, and Padma Shri awardee, Astad Deboo will present his show Rhythm Divine II – River Runs Deep in the city for the first time, this week. It will then travel to New Delhi, Chennai and, Burma, he informs us about the performance that is the extension of the first edition of Rhythm Divine.
For the series, Deboo has collaborated with Guru Seityaban Singh, head of Shree Shree Govindji Nat-Sankirtan in Manipur, and will perform with 10 Pung Cholom drummers, who train under the latter.
So what you get to see on stage are two different ends of a dance spectrum that gradually weave into a cohesive whole. In this piece, Deboo combines his modern dance style, integrated with elements of kathak and kathakali, and the traditional Manipuri dance form, Pung Cholom. In the latter, artistes play hand drums (called pung) and dance at the same time, without breaking the flow of the music.
When we called up Deboo, he was in the thick of setting up things, before his young Manipuri crew (aged 17-37) joined him. “I am also the producer, you see. I have to wear many hats — the PR hat, fund-raising hat, and do the cleaning and sweeping. I have done this most of my life,” laughs Deboo, who had last performed in Bengaluru two and a half years ago. He tells us more about the second creation that explores the “unrest” in the Northeast, which premiered in Mumbai in 2014. “I have been working with young artistes from the region for a long time. And I have observed that in spite of the tension around them, they continue to perform. Life goes on. Artistes are moving on,” Deboo explains the inspiration behind Rhythm Divine production.
The dance begins on a gentle note, reflecting the ordinary life of the Northeast. The drum beatings get louder, frantic, and restless gradually, hinting at the sense of insecurities that run deep inside the localities.
The traditional drummers came into Deboo’s life a decade ago. How was the experience of introducing them to his style of dance, we ask. “They have become comfortable with time. Working on world music was new for them. About the dance technique, I’ve tried to take them towards my kind of movement. I told them: assume you are holding imaginary drums in hands and start dancing.”
In the forthcoming months, the 68-year-old choreographer will be travelling with his shows that include the Indo-Korean production Hamlet, and Eternal Embrace (in collaboration with New York-based musician Yukio Tsuji). A Swedish choreographer is also working on a project about Deboo’s journey. For someone who has performed at the Great Wall of China, with Pink Floyd in London, and has performed for the royal families, Deboo is sure a great subject.
January 22. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar. 7.30 pm. Tickets (Rs.300) on bookmyshow.com
— Barkha Kumari