MOVING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK #2020
Stories of Bravery and Resilience, Artists During lockdown – A short documentary film
Moving Forward, Looking Back #2020 is a new documentary charting the effects of the pandemic on the performing arts.
The film follows three dancers, as they navigate the succession of lockdowns and the sudden shutdown of their working lives – each one at a different stage of their professional development, each one experiencing that development grind to a halt.
So many times, during the pandemic we heard art being labelled as non-essential.
It may be too early to really assess the effects of such misplaced messaging on our society as a whole; as damaging the perception of art puts our own ability to project ourselves in the future at considerable risk, weakening the social fabric and alienating us from our true identity.
In a context where the functional took centre stage, this beautifully understated film performs a task that only art can deliver upon. It provides a fitting allegory to what our collective experience has felt like over the past year.
The footage was taken by the dancers themselves and has the authentic feel that only undoctored films can convey, with no attempt to dress up the scene as something it is not.
The challenges the protagonists are faced with are somewhat different for each of them as the dancers open up to us, giving a personal perspective on their life, that is strongly contrasted by their in-character performances, that punctuate the film.
Despite the innate technical limitations of such format, the film slowly induces the viewers to tune in to the rhythm of the modern dance performances, allowing the twists, breaks and turns of a modern dance routine to provide structure where there had appeared to be none.
Dance becomes the key to unlocking what first may appear as chaos. Elegance of movement, energy and a sense of ever-threatened balance, provide a welcomed framework not just for their performances, but also for the way they approach their respective personal lives, during the pandemic.
Despite the fear that surrounds them, they find the warmth to cultivate their emotions, to find better connections with their families and their communities.
They prove themselves to be essential workers in their own way – as art; the very thing that society seems to have turned away from gives them the means to forge meaning from the chaos.
London Lift Off Global Film Festival 2020- ‘A Meeting of Cultures’ nominated in the Official Selection!
Thank you and congratulations to everyone who have been involved in ‘A Meeting of Cultures’! Sharing another official selection for our film this year-the London Lift-Off Festival 2020! With everything shifting online, the entire festival is now available to watch on Vimeo on demand. The festival has launched on 1 December and will run for the entire month. You can watch a huge variety of independent films and also vote for two of your favourite films. This is a new experience for the entire team and we will be very happy to have your support in this exciting journey!! We are in the New Voice Features Category!!
Tickets are now available for purchase here:
We are in the New Voice Features Category!! The link below is the direct checkout page:
About ‘A Meeting of Cultures’-The inspiring dance story of Anna Pavlova and Uday Shankar and its lasting influence
Duration-52:52, Completed on January 2020
Film by Protima Chatterjee/Editor: Roger Kitchen/Creative Producer: Piali Ray, O.B.E
The documentary film tells the story of this first of a kind dance partnership through the eyes of the BA2 dance students of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and dance. Contemporary dance has been shaped by multiple dance forms and cultural influences-this film explores one such influence through the collaboration between Prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova and the pioneer of modern Indian dancer Uday Shankar in the early 20th century.
The story explores the current relevance of this iconic collaboration and how this is an inspiration to today’s diverse cultural scene in the UK. With oral histories recorded from academics, historians, dance artists, choreographers, and filmmakers, young dancers from Trinity Laban unfold the first artistic connections between UK and India, western ballet and contemporary dance, and the birth of a new dance legacy. The film also showcases rare archival footage of historical value.
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.
An Abundant Art project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund
- Focusing on the iconic collaboration between dance pioneer Uday Shankar and Prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova and its impact on dance heritage.
- Researching, recording, informing, creating and sharing key elements of this heritage.
- Producing oral histories, workshops, exhibitions and documentary film involving universities, schools, community groups, libraries and public venues.
About Uday Shankar and Anna Pavlova
Uday Shankar (1900-1977) was a legendary Indian dancer, choreographer and film maker who pioneered a new technique of Indian contemporary dance. Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) was a prima Ballerina famous for her performance as and in” The Dying Swan” and for being the first ballerina (with her own company) to do a world tour of ballet. Their path breaking partnership gave us a heritage that opened a whole new world of creative collaboration across cultures- For the first time in modern history two dancers from completely diverse cultural civilizational backgrounds understood the value of each other’s heritage and co- created while always respecting the other’s culture without compromising the authenticity of their own styles.
Uday Shankar is the Indian dance pioneer who created a dance style that is invaluable in its intercultural philosophy of capturing the essence of Indian dance movements in a contemporary framework. His dance technique is a creative process which is all embracing- movements, music, costumes and stage craft to present an Indian dance experience for audiences in the west starting in the early 19th century. One of the first Indian cultural ambassadors of multi-cultural and artistic synthesis to connect with artists and audiences in the UK and worldwide. He created a new genre of Indian dance outside the classical sensibilities and was the forerunner of an ideology that was far ahead of his times-globalisation and multiculturalism through art. Shankar took the essence from various forms of Indian classical and folk dance, statues and paintings and merged them in a movement format that evolved into a contemporary dance form maintaining the Indian aesthetics.
Pavlova performed many ‘ethnic’ dances, some of which she learned from local teachers during her travels. In addition to the dances of her native Russia, she performed Mexican, Japanese, and East Indian dances. It was from here that her collaboration with Uday Shankar started. Supported by her interest, Uday Shankar, her partner in Krishna Radha (1923), went on to revive the long-neglected art of dance in his native India.
Had there been no Anna Pavlova, there would perhaps not be an Uday Shankar, the dance pioneer. And with no Uday Shankar Indian Dance would not have had an early exposure in the World stage or
seen a new genre of contemporary Indian dance format that captures the essence of western cultural sensibilities of stagecraft, light, costume design which was an integral part of the newly formed Uday Shankar technique that made it hugely popular across nations and set Indian dance on the world stage permanently. Or we would not have had dance introduced in Indian cinema in the 1930s which has popularly evolved and taken a more modern and contemporary form today.
The first Indian contemporary movement format that Uday shankar created will be studied, reimagined and recreated across the community through workshops and activities in schools and universities. The activities will include understanding and learning new movements in dance practice and how an idea can be developed to creatively evolve in a dance movement, individually or in a group. The project will involve valuable new learning about cultural collaboration through the lens of Uday Shankar-Anna Pavlova partnership. The outcome of these activities will be shared across public venues along with the oral history narratives where the community at large can be informed about the first cultural exchange and artistic collaboration between the East and the West, the legacy of Uday Shankar and its relevance in Indian dance today and the history of Indian contemporary dance dating back to 1920s.
The Uday Shankar dance style creatively connects cultures, communities and inspires innovation. His dance partnership with Anna Pavlova, the Prima Ballerina from the west continues to be a shining model of practice where artists from distinct and diverse cultural backgrounds came together in a creative synergy.
This collaborative process is part of a research and heritage project by Abundant Art UK led by Protima Chatterjee, supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund. Our participating partners are Sampad-South Asian Arts and Heritage, Tinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and Roehampton University.
A Meeting of Cultures: An inspiring dance story of Anna Pavlova and Uday Shankar and its lasting influence
About the film :
The first performance of Anna Pavlova and Uday Shankar’s collaboration took place at the ROH in 1923 and this is where the story begins. The story is woven through the research and discoveries of the BA2 students of Laban who are a major part of the film. We follow two parallel storylines. One charts the story from the meeting between prima ballerina Anna Pavlova and the then unknown fine arts student at the Royal college of Art, Uday Shankar (elder brother of Ravi Shankar) to the flowering of the latter’s genius and the intense interactions with dancers and artists in the UK and other parts of the world. This ultimately leads to the birth of the first Indian contemporary dance through the distillation of different Indian dance forms and UK influences. The second storyline is the journey of contemporary dance students of Trinity Laban and their gradual discovery of this story as part of their dance heritage (BA2 Historical project – Dance Legends of the 20th century). The film culminates with the students restaging Uday Shankar’s iconic choreography “ Kartikeya” at the Bonny Bird Theatre at Trinity Laban.
The film is about how they unfold the first artistic connections between UK and India, ballet and contemporary dance and the birth of a new dance legacy through their research and technique learning and restaging rehearsals.
The story also explores the current relevance of this collaboration and how this is an inspiration to the current diverse cultural scene in the UK. We have had the opportunity to interview academics, dance practitioners, historians, curators Shankar’s family members and artists like Akram Khan, Mark Baldwin and upcoming south-Asian talents like Vidya Patel who speak about the current relevance of this iconic collaboration and their association with the heritage.
We recently launched the film in India with screenings in Kolkata and Mumbai at the NCPA.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Date: 25 April 2020
Time: 03.00 p.m.
More details coming soon!
Yule Hall at the Tollygunge Club, Kolkata, India 27 Dec 2019 6.30 pm
National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, India, 12 Dec 2019 03.00 p.m.
Nandan, Kolkata, India, 09 Dec 2019 06.30p.m.