Annette Laday’s face comes to life when she talks about her discovery of India, especially dance and Kathakali. The artist, choreographer and director then returned to India to learn and perfect her skills as a Kathakali dancer and actress.
More than four decades after his first trip to India in 1975, the choreographer is writing a book, Contemporary Dance in India Today.
“While traveling with my productions, I met Indian contemporary dance practitioners who developed and developed their own aesthetics, integrating dance techniques with modern approaches to storytelling and performance,” she said during a conversation at the Residency Tower Hotel in Thiruvananthapuram.
She found that besides the indigenous classical performing arts, there were many practitioners of contemporary dance in the Indian scene.
However, Annette found that while classical dance and Bollywood were popular in France, contemporary dance in India was completely unknown to many.
In 2010, Annette was researching contemporary theater in India and translating plays presented by young theater practitioners into French. She also wrote an article on contemporary dance in a special issue of public theatre, a French magazine in 2016, was dedicated to the contemporary Indian dance scene. This encouraged me to make a deeper study of contemporary dance. With the support of the National Center for Dance in Paris, she traveled to India in 2017 and 2019.
Book by Annette Leday | Image source: private arrangement
Speaking about the book, which is the final product of two years of travel, research and conversation, she said the work offers a holistic view of contemporary dance in India through the words of its practitioners.
She shows the places she visited on a map of India in her book, and notes that she visited 10 places in India to meet and document her interviews with contemporary dancers like Anita Ratnam, Malavika Sarukai, Kumudini Lakhia, Mallika Sarabhai, Navtej Johar, Jayachandran Balazhi and so on.
Annette explains: “The late Chandralekha was a pioneer in contemporary dance. She challenged the dogma, rigidity, and religiosity to which Bharatanatyam was often confined, and challenged current performance methods and liberated her through her choreography that blended the martial arts form of Kalaripayattu with his ideas.” Feminism and New Topics with the Grammar of the Bharatanatyam Movement. »
Bilingual in English and French, Annette’s book honors pioneers such as Uday Shankar, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Ustad Dipo and Kumudini Lakhia who conceived and created choreography inspired by the classical form but who broke its artistic framework with a new choice. Topics and creative ways to present it.
Dancer Choreographer Annette Laday | Image source: Saraswathy Nagarajan
Her book is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the platform of contemporary dance that encompasses politics, feminism, and individualism. It contains interviews and selected topics from the dancers, their creative processes, financing, and the organizations and venues that support the performances. Of all the interviews, she says that the one she did with veteran Kumudini was a bridge between two eras as she belongs to a great generation of classical dancers who gave Indian dance a new language of performance.
Annette returned to India in 1978 to learn Bharatanatyam and Tamil. However, it was Kathakali that found a permanent place in her heart. She moved to Kerala and went to learn Kathakali under the late Maestro Kispadam Kumaran Nair at Sadanam.
In 1989 she began producing her own productions which combined the grammar and dynamics of Kathakali with new themes and developed a modern language of the movement. She has ten shows in India and France.
In India, performers were expected to adhere to the traditions and traditions of their guru. However, many performers developed and developed their own productions. In doing so, they had to challenge their own mentality and that of the people around them as well. It was one common trait that resonated with all the dancers. who I spoke to as they talked about their creative journey.
Annette diligently filmed the interviews to document them and all the interviews were uploaded to Narthaki.com. Later, a video was shot with Cyrille Larrieu, visually documenting his study of contemporary dance. She says, “The film takes us to symbolic places in the vast Indian subcontinent, where movement and dance are questioned. We discover faces committed to renewing the traditions and artists of a new generation open to the world and its techniques…”
The shutdown delayed production of the book, but not the document. The book was published by Goyal, and released on January 5 at the Alliance Française de Trivandrum (AFT) in the city and the movie was also screened.
The film will also be shown at AFT in Chennai and Bengaluru.