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Astad Deboo never fails to surprise

The celebrated dancer collaborates with rudra veena artiste Baha úd-din Dagar for his new work

The word ‘contemporary’ that is bandied about in the performing art world today has a committed champion in Astad Deboo. The original modernist on the Indian stage, he used his Kathak and Kathakali training to come up with his own mind and body language. The twirls of Kathak and mime of Kathakali are visible, but they are part of the many influences that make up his choreography. It’s a vocabulary that defines art as a liberating experience making Deboo’s works throb with a rare energy.

Article by Chitra Swaminathan | The Hindu

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Taking forward this vision, the 70-year-old dancer will collaborate with rudra veena artiste Mohi Baha úd-din Dagar to establish a connect between contemporary dance form and Indian classical music.

This experimental presentation, an excerpt of a larger production to be premiered this year end, will be staged as part of Mudra Dance Festival at Tata Theatre in Mumbai today.

“Whether I am dancing or not, I am constantly in movement. Sometimes, it’s a physical journey and at times, an emotional trip. And I embark upon them to find new ways of expressing through nuanced dance imagery. I met Baha úd-din Dagar, three years ago, at the SPIC-MACAY convention. Kiran Seth, the founder, asked me to come up with something impromptu and I took Baha úd-din on board too. Since then I had been thinking of roping him in for a choreographic work. So here we are,” says an excited Deboo.

Joining the two artistes will be a young pakhawaj player, Pratap. Though the production will largely revolve round raga Bhimpalas, it will not be strictly driven by the technicalities of Hindustani music.

“It is more about the camaraderie between Baha úd-din and me. The rapport helps in more ways than one. Despite the diversity in the thought process, approach and genre, the singular purpose comes through clearly in the work,” says Deboo, who has always been fond of dhrupad.

“Like my dance, dhrupad is vigorous one moment and meditative the next. This made my collaboration earlier with the Gundecha Brothers exciting. Like the way they unravel the many layers of their music, slowly and steadily, I too invest a lot of thought into every move and gesture. I like the dance to grow on me and the audience at its own pace.”

His cross-genre productions have taken Deboo around the world. And they have often been driven by a social purpose too.

“Artistes are basically healers. We could rid the world of many ills, bring a smile on faces and soothe minds. It was as satisfying to work with the hearing impaired and the street children of Salaam Balak Trust as it has been with the other established artistes.”

The rhythm of Manipuri drums, notes of shakuhachi, Hindustani swaras, Rumi’s poetry…Deboo’s oeuvre has no boundary.

Filed Under: Art