Uday Shankar’s Choreography ‘Kartikeya’ restaged by students of Trinity Laban (BA2 Historical Project)-the first milestone of our Heritage Project
We are overwhelmed to start our yearlong heritage project on Uday Shankar and Anna Pavlova with the BA2 Historical project at Trinity Laban. A 4 weeks intensive programme on Uday Shankar, where the students learnt the Shankar Technique and the repertory ‘Sacred Myths’ that they restaged at the end of the course included Shankar’s choreography Kartikeya, from the late 1930’s. A proud moment for our project to bring to life Karyikeya for the first time in the UK with the students of Trinity Laban.
This year alongside the works of Hose Limon, Merce Cunningham and Wayne McGregor, Uday Shankar was included in the programme.
The Uday Shankar segment of the historical project was delivered by Abundant Art as part of this Heritage project supported by The Heritage Lottery fund. Technique classes and restaging rehearsal taught by Tanusree Shankar and Protima Chatterjee. Theory lectures delivered by Tanusree Shankar, Piali Ray and Protima Chatterjee
During the Historical Project, each Year 2 student on the BA (Hons) Contemporary Dance programme is immersed in an intensive period of dance training and study which focuses on work created by a choreographer who has made an important contribution to the development of dance in the 20th and 21st centuries. As well as being involved in the restaging of the choreography, students learn about the historical, social, artistic and cultural contexts in which the work was originally created. In addition, students participate in technique classes and theory classes which are designed to equip them with the technical skills and artistic understanding necessary to meet the demands of the piece. The result is a learning experience which integrates theory and practice, and which exposes students both physically and intellectually to dance works of historical and cultural significance.
The Historical Project component at trinity Laban introduces their BA2 students to some of the well-known and established repertoire from the 20th century modern/contemporary dance. In this programme students gain a direct and practical experience of selected choreographer’s work through intensive rehearsals and performance of repertory extracts. The rehearsal directors teach the material to the group, decide the casting and coach students towards the performance. With organised technical rehearsals in the Laban Theatre students showcase the repertory piece they learn over the course of 4 weeks in 4 public performances across two days. The performance of the repertory is the final assessment of the practical aspect of this component.
During this period, theoretical sessions are provided with contextual and conceptual background necessary for an integrated understanding of the choreographer and work they are studying. As part of this learning process students are encouraged to reflect on their own experience of the historical repertory, and the ways it contributes to their understanding of the work and its historical and contemporary significance. Material covered in Investigating Arts Practice also support their work in this aspect of the component. Individual Lecture Demonstrations after the performance is the assessment for this aspect of the component.
Kartikeya, Himalaya and Apsara
3 segments restaged in the historical production.
The first piece is Kartikeya which was originally choreographed by Uday Shankar in the early 1940s. This dance was incorporated in his film Kalpana in 1948. References of the Dance can be seen in the film Kalpana (some links on you tube) where Uday Shankar performs this piece with his group of dancers.
The second and third segment are choreographies that are based on Uday Shankar’s Technique with reference to movements created by Uday Shankar. These pieces are choreographed by Tanusree Shankar and restaged with students of Laban by Tanusree Shankar and Protima Chatterjee.
In Hindu mythology Kartikeya is the God of War. The Devas(Gods) are in retreat against the predatory force of the Asuras. It is for protection from the Asuras (personification of evil and greed) that Karthikeya is born. He is the promised son of Shiva who is born to defeat the Asuras and restore the cosmic balance. He is fierce and masculine- symbol of martial power and authority. Shankar takes the essence of this warlike god as we see in this dance. It is masculine and powerful which can be performed by both male and female dancers as seen in the popular version performed by him and his group in Kalpana. This composition captures the inner power in us to fight against evil and be triumphant. Fearlessness, valour, courage, positive energy and power put together makes Kartikeya, the epic dance piece that resonates with generations.
Indian mythology confers sacredness to the Himalayas where the Gods reside. Himalaya is also personified as the father of Parvati who gives her in marriage to Shiva. This union leads to the birth of Karthikeya who saves the world. Himalaya is strong yet tranquil. He bestows and sustains life through his waters and forests
The majestic Himalayas, holds a very special place in the sacred geography of Indian imagination. It is the source of the life-giving rivers of the sub-continent and is the space for practicing spirituality for millennia.
In this dance we imagine the Himalayas dancing in spiritual ecstasy. The dance opens with the setting sun and the rhythms of dusk. As the moon rises the Himalayas dance to the moonlight. It’s like the mountain range comes to life at night. There is twinkling moonlight broken occasionally by thunder or lightning. Whether it is calm or unsettled, the Himalayas dance through till the break of dawn and goes back to deep contemplation. It is day and the sparkling rivers flow, the birds sing and everything is serene. This composition shows two aspects of the mind-reposeful meditation and playful expression which balances life.
This dance evokes the celestial dancers-the Apsaras, who perform for the gods. Celebrating the triumph of the Devas over the Asuras, this piece symbolises victory of the human mind over fear and material desire.
The cave paintings, temple carvings and statues of Apsaras and dancing figures found throughout India were always a source of inspiration for Uday Shankar. He used this material to create the base of his movements. “Apsara” is a homage to this heritage. Its movements are taken from Shankar’s inspirations around motifs found in traditional Indian Art. This choreography beautifully demonstrates layers of movement gestures that are part of Uday Shankar’s repertoire.