Five teams from Kolkata and one from Siliguri will be participating in the fifth edition of the Prakriti Excellence in Contemporary Dance Awards (PECDA), a biennial pan-India competition that starts in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Out of 56 applicant teams, 18 were selected to compete at PECDA 2022. The six teams from Bengal this year represent the highest representation by a state in the history of PECDA.
Started in 2012, PECDA was blueprinted by poet, producer and dance enabler Karthika Nair, who also served as artistic director for the first four editions. The best dancer trophy at PECDA is named after her. As an open-entry competition, PECDA provides a platform for contemporary choreographers and dancers to demonstrate their artistic vision and serves as a launchpad for their future development.
Prakriti Foundation, which organises the competition, explores identity through art, culture and heritage. The foundation has hosted several festivals and events, attended by eminent scholars, writers, dancers, thespians and filmmakers, in Chennai and other parts of India.
“At PECDA, we try to play the role of creative catalysts. Our platform isn’t just a space for dance performances, but also an opportunity to create dialogue on powerful themes such as love, sexuality, identity and even the economy. Over the last decade or so, we’ve identified young dancers in India who often find it monotonous to keep performing in the same traditional dance genres. Our goal at PECDA is to expand their creative horizons so that they can create something compelling through a synthesis of the traditional and the modern,” said Ranvir Shah, founder trustee and producer, PECDA.
The jury, the venue and the format
Kylie Walters has mentored each of the 18 teams ahead of the competition at PECDA 2022Amit Datta
This year, PECDA will function under the artistic supervision of Farooq Choudhury OBE, producer of Akram Khan Dance Company; and Chandrika Grover Ralleigh, an independent arts consultant. As artistic directors, Choudhury and Grover Ralleigh have been in charge of shortlisting participants and setting the artistic tone for the event. Kylie Walters, the director of the dance department at Lyon’s Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse, has mentored all 18 teams at this year’s competition. The jury comprises Rachid Ouramdane (president and director, Chaillot Theatre National De La Danse, France), Anmol Vellani (artist, researcher and founder, India Foundation for the Arts, Bengaluru), Melanie Zimmerman (programmer dramaturge at Kampnagel, Germany), Glyn Roberts (director of Castlemaine State Festival, Australia) and Mark Yeoman (artistic director of Noorderzon, Festival of Performing Arts & Society, Netherlands).
The 18 teams will be performing in the preliminary rounds on April 20 and April 21, which will be followed by the finals on April 22. The venue on all three days will be the Bangalore International Centre (BIC). The other participating teams at PECDA are from Delhi, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Ahmedabad and Karnataka. The winning team will receive Rs 5,00,000, a six-city tour as part of The Park’s New Festival and mentorship by an international organisation or choreographer.
Besides the dance competition, PECDA 2022 will also involve workshops on dramaturgy and dance writing, panel discussions, presentation of writings on dance, screening of dance films and special dance performances from PECDA collaborators.
From stutters to gazes to madness as the new normal
Ahead of the preliminary rounds of PECDA, My Kolkata caught up with the participating choreographers from Bengal to get a sneak peek of their performances and their feelings before they take the stage.
In a personal piece, Sabita Shaw will look at how stuttering is perceived by societyCourtesy: Prakriti Foundation
“I’m not nervous, but I’m really excited. It’s not often that you get to perform in front of an audience that is as big and as informed as the one at PECDA. I’m looking forward to my performance and its message resonating widely,” said Sabita Shaw, 27, from Kolkata’s Sovabazar area. Sabita’s performance is based on a personal piece called Stutter, which deals with the challenges of not being allowed to express oneself fluently. “What happens when you’re not heard and just avoided by others? What goes through your mind when you’re scared to share your own thoughts? How do you combat the stigma that comes from people labelling your habits as a disability? These are some of the questions I try to grapple with in my performance,” said Sabita.
Pintu Das intends to capture the perpetual gaze that shadows women everywhere in a patriarchal societyCourtesy: Prakriti Foundation
For Pintu Das, a 35-year-old performer from Kolkata’s Lake Town, PECDA is a space to enquire into the perpetual gaze that women are subject to in a patriarchal society. In his piece titled Under Observation, Pintu wants to “demonstrate how women are never free from being watched, judged and analysed, be it while walking on the street during the day or even when they are sleeping at night. My piece was originally supposed to be a 25-minute performance, but I had to truncate it to fit the 10-minute slot provided to us at PECDA.” Just like Sabita, Pintu has kept his nerves at bay ahead of the big day, partly because he sees PECDA “less as a competition and more as a community where I can share my artistic ideas to help generate a discussion”.
Promita Karfa and Abrar Saqib celebrate eccentricity and madness through their performanceCourtesy: Prakriti Foundation
The youngest participant from Kolkata is 21-year-old Promita Karfa, who will be performing a duet with fellow dancer Abrar Saqib called Aki Buki. “My piece celebrates ingenious madness, encouraging people to get in touch with their creative selves at the risk of being called eccentric or abnormal. It is the eccentricity that is often responsible for the most life-changing ideas, which is why we want to establish madness as the new normal through our performance,” said Promita, who stays in Serampore. Before what is undoubtedly the biggest performance of her young career, Promita spoke about how “winning and losing isn’t important. What matters is to be able to live each and every moment and learn from it to improve as an artist. PECDA is ideal in this regard, as it lets artists explore and discover their own selves”.
Metamorphosis, setting a “Bench-Mark” and changing mindsets
Papia Chakraborty deals with illusion and reality as part of her pieceCourtesy: Prakriti Foundation
Papia Chakraborty will be performing at PECDA a second time, after doing so in the fourth edition of the competition in 2018. A resident of Kolkata’s Chakgaria area, Papia, 36, will perform a piece that balances the counter forces of illusion and reality to zone in on the Metamorphosis that lies at the heart of human existence. Set to be a duet performance with Naresh Kumar, Papia enquires about what determines a person’s true identity: “Is it one’s emotion, personal beliefs, values, hormonal urges, kinks, likes or dislikes or their love language that truly makes someone who they are? Or is it the standards imposed by society that forges this identity?”
Through his choreography, Saurabh Surekha wants to probe the altered reality of spacesCourtesy: Prakriti Foundation
“PECDA guarantees great appreciation for modern, contemporary dance, which is why it’s so rewarding to be able to perform at the event,” said 35-year-old Saurabh Surekha from Salt Lake, who will be choreographing a piece called Bench-Mark, which provides an artistic commentary on how space and reality have changed since the outbreak of Covid-19. “During the pandemic, human beings fought over and defined spaces for themselves. The redefinition of space made closeness distant and made individuals realise the importance of sharing social spaces. My choreography uses a bench that represents how an object that once stood for socialisation can also become a survival strategy,” described Saurabh.
Deepanwita Roy explores how sticky notes can reflect mindsets through her performanceCourtesy: Prakriti Foundation
Rounding up the participants from Bengal is Siliguri’s Deepanwita Roy, who wants to focus on “changing mindsets” with her performance. “My performance is centred around sticky notes — pink, lemon yellow and green — and how they shape and alter everyday realities. Through my dance, I want to highlight the element of control in my own life. Ever since the pandemic hit, I felt that my life was spiralling out of control and that I was forced to go with the flow of situations. This loss of control is what I want to project,” said the 31-year-old. Like her fellow participants, Deepanwita is not intimidated or anxious about performing at PECDA. “I don’t see it as a cut-throat space where you have to chase results. For me, the aim is on the process, so that I can make full use of the chance to disseminate my ideas through dance,” she added.