The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A 'downtrodden child'
- Astad Deboo on why indian contemporary dance is not accepted

Astad Deboo has a busy schedule this year and the next. In May he will be in Washington DC working with deaf and hearing groups and American director Tim McCarthy on a work based on Amir Khusrau's poems.

He has worked with Deaf Clark's School in Chennai on a work titled Contraposition and has performed in Kuala Lumpur for Deaf Malaysia. Deboo has danced solo in an underground station in Munich in conjunction with installation artist Regina Haller. Last year, he performed solo at the Sydney Opera house and at the water festival in Germany.

Yet after performing for 36 years, this stalwart of Indian contemporary dance is not a happy man. Deboo, who was passing through Calcutta on Monday, calls himself the 'downtrodden child' of Indian dance. 'Whereas, the dances of Japan, Korea and China have been accepted,' one cannot say the same of their Indian counterpart. As in the visual arts, the position of a country in the global economy plays a pivotal role in acceptance or rejection.

Yet things are slowly opening up. The Centre of Research and Choreography based in Paris has sent an invitation. This would have been unthinkable a few years ago. For the old guard in France was very dismissive about experiments in India.

One reason for the acceptance of other south Asian nations is that corporate backing ' Sony, Honda, Toyota, Asahi Glass ' is very strong. 'The Wipros and others have a strong presence at the Olympics. Yet they weren't interested in my performance. Their expats (South Asian) take great pride. Our expats aren't bothered,' he says. So much for Mera Bharat Mahan.

So each dancer has to get his own sponsor as commissions don't exist here. 'Even when there is some government support the monetary remuneration is so pathetic we work with nothing,' he says. However, he admits, that contemporary dance does have a platform today.

He names promising performers and groups of Chennai and Bangalore like Padmini Chettur, Nrityautya Dance, Samudra Dance company, Nrityagram and Aditi Mangaldas of Delhi. In Mumbai there is no dance. 'Only food, fashion and fornication,'says Deboo, who lives in that city.

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