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World beyond reflections

I have often wondered why students of performing studies, art and aesthetics do not form the core group of an audience for performances.

Published: 28th January 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th January 2017 01:07 PM   |  A+A-

I have often wondered why students of performing studies, art and aesthetics do not form the core group of an audience for performances. They usually attend only those events, which their departments host. This is a very narrow prism in understanding the macro.

Similarly, I am equally perplexed that artists do not participate in or attend academic seminars, which will make them more sensitive to contemporary performance themes and sensitivities.

I have had the singular good fortune of being mentored and linked with extraordinary academics who have enabled the efflorescence of my artistic spirit and quest.   

   Geeta Chandran

Almost two decades ago, Dr Meenakshi Gopinath pushed puppeteer Anurupa Roy and me to collaborate, and create a dance-puppet performance on the difficult issue of women and war. Her catalysing us forced us to think in new directions, and we created Her Voice, which presented the Mahabharata epic through a different gender lens.

This year, I was engaged with Jaina scholar Sudhamahi Regunathan whose pioneering work on aspects of Jaina philosophy urged me to create  solo and group performances on the Jaina theme of Anekanta. 

Just last week, Jyoti Bose and Ameeta Wattal, both leaders of Springdales Schools in Delhi, urged me to conceptualise a performance on turning mirrors into windows. This marvellous theorem forced me to think afresh how we approach mirrors and see reflections, and how they could become windows and push us to infinite explorations.

Forced to think differently, I explored how mirrors mark a finite boundary while the window becomes an opportunity to explore the infinite; how the mirror is marked by your own reality while the window is an escape from reality and can push you to the realm of imagination, fantasy and possibility; how the mirror reflects your limitations while the window beckons you to your fullest potential; how the mirror reflects light while the window embraces light; how the mirror marks limitations of self and perception while the window is a magical opportunity at exploration and new discoveries. From mirror to window, so many creative possibilities emerged.

This was possible only because I was pushed into thinking differently by enlightened academics who saw performance as an intrinsic part of their academic debate.

This symbiotic relationship between arts and academia was further brought alive when I read a recent statement by professor Joanna Gavins, who leads the clean the air we breathe project from the University of Sheffield in England. She said, “While scientists are developing technologies to help clean the environment, it’s the arts and humanities that can help raise awareness on environmental issues and inspire people to adopt pro-environmental behaviour.”

Artists who had the unique privilege of being mentored by academics of all shades and have collaborated with them on various creative projects find that mirrors magically dissolve into windows. Dissolving silos and exploring new hyphens will enable keeping the spirit of the dance alive and enable artists to explore new and undoubtedly enriching frontiers.

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