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Animated Edition - Spring 2006
Independent artist, Bisakha Sarker reports on the professional development opportunities provided by her attendance at FACETS 2006, held in Bangalore, India
After years of deliberation finally this year I managed to attend the International Choreographic Residency in Bangalore, India. Every two years Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts organises this professional development opportunity.

FACETS is a three week long residential program of dance training and choreographic exploration. Set in the tranquil surrounding of the Ecumenical Christian Centre in Whitefield on the outskirts of Bangalore this seemed like an ideal space to stop, to listen, to think and to work with a self imposed sense of urgency. There was space to grow without the frenzy of having to meet the conditions of the funding criteria or to come up with a clever marketing strategy. The dancers, choreographers, composers, film-makers and other digital arts specialists were moving with drive and purpose in a make-believe world of dance making.

There was regular contemporary dance class through out the duration of the residency. Yael Flexer and Jayachandran Palazhy taught these classes. Along with this there was a parallel class offering sessions in Yoga on the first week, Kalari in the second and Bharatanatyam in the final week. Participants can apply to attend the programme as either choreographer or dancer. I was privileged to be accepted as an observer.

When I arrived, in the second week of the residency the choreographers had already started to work on their individual pieces. The participating dancers were allocated to work with different choreographers. The choreographers can give a wish list of the dancers they would like for their dance pieces but the organisers decide how best to assign the dancers to the choreographers. This year there were nine choreographers working on wide ranging topics from making a dance to be performed within the restricted area of a bedroom to the issues of globalisation and the politics of the call centres, to the Lullaby to the horrors of the modern warfare. There were highly skilled musician and composers who make electronic music. Each evening there were sessions introducing different software frequently used in dance choreography e.g. Final cut pro, Isadora etc . There was an array of exciting artists from all over the world like Jerome Bel, Matsuo Kunihiko, Lorenzo Brusci to name only a few who were always there to support the choreographers to a create interdisciplinary performances of quality and complexity. The residency met the promises made in the publicity:

"Focusing on a multi-disciplinary approach to creating performance work, FACETS 2006 will bring together some of the most innovative artists in the fields of movement and choreography, music, lighting and digital art from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. The three-week residential course explores the international context of choreographing and presenting the body, working with different movement techniques as well as utilising existing and emerging technologies as a creative tool for artistic expression. The course will provide daily contemporary technique class and sessions in Yoga, Kalarippayattu and Bharatanatyam. The course includes choreographic and new media workshops, informal sharing of processes, facilitated feed-back and discussions."

This was a wonderful meeting place of international artists. The participants commented on the friendly and supportive 'safe environment' of the residency. The accommodation was basic but comfortable. Main meals were served in common dinning halls and the tea and coffee breaks were taken outdoors. The food was excellent. The driving force behind this initiative is Jayachandran Palazhy. As an artist in his own right he is constantly moving forward. He has involved himself in the exploration of new artistic vision realised through engagement with new technology. It is so good to see that he is creating these opportunities for the members of his company and other young artists, to share his excitement of multi-disciplinary work and to get practical hands on training to meet the demands of 21 century contemporary dance world. This was one place where young kathak dancer Amina met the challenge of negotiating Kalarippayattu on one hand and contemporary release technique on the other. She had the opportunity to learn it in her own way not under the pressure of giving public performance. She can now choose whether and how she might use these influences in her work.

From its very inception Christopher Bannerman had played a very important role in shaping FACETS' vision and structure. He was always present with watchful eyes. Chris has a wonderful way of making everyone feel special. He can at the same time both challenge and support young artists.

It is important to stress that although it takes place in India led by a dancer like Jay who is fully trained in Classical Indian dance, this by no means is a choreo lab for Indian dance or new trends in Indian dance. The participants have come from 13 different countries, most of them practicing contemporary dancers/ choreographers. They will get one two hour class a day for five days at the last week of the residency. Unless the choreographer is already trained in Indian dance techniques, this can hardly give any chance of their work having any influence on Indian dance. However for the choreographers of Indian dance this is a good and rare opportunity to learn about and experiment with the multi-disciplinary/digital art based work.

As far as the professional development of mature dancers is concerned this programme, in its current form, is not geared for them but it certainly has the possibility of accommodating that aspect. However this time an well established mature Bharatanatyam dance artist took part in the programme. It will be useful to know her opinion on this matter.

From time to time as I walked through the neatly paved paths under the neatly planted rows of well matured trees with amazing trunks, my mind was filled with remorse. The remorse and regrets of a very common order like 'why these opportunities were not there earlier...' 'why didn't I keep my body fit to do a perfect kalari jump without effort...'. I dreamt of being in a place where I can be reassured not just challenged, where I can look at those trees, without any regret, only with the full knowledge that it is for those twisted weather bitten mature trunks that flowers can bloom and the birds can nest.

Bisakha Sarker can be contacted on

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Animated: Spring 2006