The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Embrace, with enthusiasm & rhythm

It’s a combination of Indian natyashastra and body weather, a blend of eastern and western dance forms based on the principles of Japanese martial arts. And the performance will be by a group of Australian professionals and Calcutta amateurs. But at the 10-day preparatory workshop, enthusiasm and a sense of rhythm are the only requirements for participation.

British-born dancer Tess de Quincey, along with two other members of her Australian troupe, the De Quincey Company, formed in 2000, is on a three-month sojourn to the city. For the past two months, they’ve been researching natyashastra and conducting workshops. Now, it’s almost time for the big event. ‘Embrace: a silent thread’, a workshop conducted at the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre, by the British Council, began on Tuesday, with the final performance scheduled for December 6 at ITC Sangeet Research Academy.

The “site-specific” dance form is all about the “place, space and body movement”, explains de Quincey. Some of her dancing technique she developed on a Japanese farm, while some of it was done in the Australian Outback, “because the environment is important”. While she has worked in city spaces, “the body in natural surroundings is very different to that in a city”. Her extensive travelling and experimentation, from Danish dance and Noh theatre to Balinese mask dancing to Butoh, (a Japanese form), adds variety to her work, which she describes as “anti-aesthetic”.

Back to Calcutta after 10 years, de Quincey’s got big plans, with a long-term project of performances in Sydney next year, in Calcutta and Delhi in 2005 and Sydney and Perth in 2006, with both Indian and Australian artistes. Her first Durga puja was “fascinating”, she smiles. Having explored the festival, she now has a performance in mind in the Kumartuli area for the artisans, ‘Embrace: drench’, “to thank them for the Puja”.

A workshop, with 13 to 58-year-olds at the Calcutta School of Music earlier this month, was another “wonderful experience”. Five of those participants are now in the current workshop. Of the total of around 15, there’s Deopriya Agarwal, a college student and amateur performer, Ramanjit Kaur, an actress, and Suman Sawogi, a Manipuri dancer. Sarmistha Das, a teacher who was part of de Quincey’s workshop in 1993, said she was looking forward to doing it again, “even at my age”, recalling the beauty of body language.

Before taking their leave, the dancers have a final workshop lined up, ‘Embrace: limitless’, with the Calcutta Social Project, an NGO, “which will be more of an exchange”. Although some members of the group have been laid up with stomach bugs, Kristina Harrison was on her feet at the workshop on Tuesday. For her, the Calcutta experience was “overwhelming”.

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