Dance & the cityscape

Dance & the cityscape

Renowned choreographer Samir Akika, better known as the ‘Tarantino of dance-theatre’, combines the formal language of dance with the visual medium of films to produce a new cinematic dance-theatre. An impressed Anjana Pradhan  reports.

Samir Akika“Your bindi has gone more towards the left. It should be in-between your eyebrows; please bring it to the centre,” says Samir Akika, to his co-choreographer Nora Ronge, who was draped in a multi-coloured silk saree. This itself manifests Akika’s close observation of Indian culture and tradition. No doubt, it was so vividly evident in the recently held ‘Bang Bang — Sensual Urban Dance Performance’ in Bangalore. The piece relates the tales of urban Indian streets, the chaos, and tradition and modernism in juxtaposition, said Akika, the Algerian-French-German dancer, who choreographed the piece. “You rarely get to see such things in the West. It’s really fascinating to see a cow walking alongside a swanky car on M G Road.”

Trademarks of Akika’s productions are his unique way of approaching the dynamics of life and fusion of reality and fiction.

This Frenchman, who was born in Algiers in 1967 and grew up in Paris, decided to be a dancer at the age of 26. This, he says, happened “by chance,” though he wanted to become a sports teacher. It was Malou Airaudo, from the Wuppertal Dance theatre, who made him rethink his ‘sporty ambition’. Later, during one of the shows, he met late Pina Bausch, the choreographer and an exponent of the neo-expressionist form of German dance known as Tanztheater; since then, there has been no looking back for Akika, who’s also known as the Tarantino of dance-theatre. He learnt dance under Bausch’s guidance at Folkwang High School in Essen, Germany. “She became my teacher and choreographer,” he said. His love for dance soon opened the gates of the dance theatre in Wuppertal and Folkwang dance studio, where he participated in many dances, including some from Malou Airaudo.

Passion for dance

Bausch’s works have not only inspired him but have also helped to enhance his passion for dance. At the age of 32, he started his career as a freelance dancer and choreographer, and was also an artist-in-residence at Dance House North Rhine-Westphalia between 2003 and 2004, and at the Theater im Pumpenhaus, in Munster. “I always look for different styles — from traditional to classical to ballet to hip-hop,” said Akika, the recipient of Kurt Jooss Award and the Performing Arts Award of the City of Dusseldorf. His works have been showcased at several festivals and venues across the world. According to him, his choreographic style is meant to combine the formal language of dance with the visual medium of films to produce a new cinematic dance-theatre. However, Akika, whose second main interest is filmmaking, said: “When you use a camera for filming, the director can have a total control on the focus and attention of the audience through the camera, and takes months to complete one. Whereas, in a theatre, there’s an uninterrupted continuity from beginning till the end.”

Various projects

Apart from his stage productions for adults, showcased worldwide, he has also done several projects with adolescents in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut. In 2009, he founded Unusual Symptoms, a production company, along with his partner Alexandra Morales.

Speaking about his recent experiences in Bangalore, he says, “It’s simply amazing.” Justifying his statement, he cites an example — “On the day of my show at Malleshwaram, my scooter broke down, and I was frantically searching for a mechanic. Trust me, some people whom I didn’t know, offered to help me to call a mechanic.

“Unlike in the West, people in India aren’t scared.” Mulling over the dreams of many who desire to go to the West for better life and living, Akika says, “Half of my family is in Algeria. People born in a less developed country dream of living in a rich country. And, to be able to live in India, you need to have the quality of likeness. People of this country have a big heart.”

Happy with the recently concluded show, Akika says that it took him about two-and-a-half weeks to train the dancers of the Attakkalari Repertory, and depict a part of the urban life of India. To observe the beauty and chaos of Indian cities and to emulate them in their best possible form, he hired a bike and visited every nook and corner of Bangalore. “I was awestruck to see life on the streets; a beggar begging for alms at traffic signals, or the daily life of a common man,” says Akika.  Approaching his themes through different perspectives of the people involved, he tried to subtly blend fact and fiction, both personal and social issues. He says, “I don’t want to do a work which is colonialist. But, at the heart of my works lies a strong sense of community and friendship, a truly human approach and an understanding that every person is an individual with a unique character.” And that is the benchmark of this down-to-earth choreographer’s works, which Bangaloreans recently had a chance to witness during the live energetic urban dance experience on the city’s streets.