Experiencing live art through dance


Breaking the myth that dance form whether Contemporary, Western or Classical depicts a certain mythological, fiction or non-fiction story, India’s leading dancer-choreographer Navtej S Johar along with Ben J Riepe of Germany presented a unique performance in the City. Concentrating on voice and body, the choreographers tried to create a live art experience by presenting mixed feelings on stage.

As part of the second edition of Ignite! Contemporary Dance Festival by Gati Dance Forum, dancers and musicians from India and Germany presented a collaborative work ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, which focused on emotions instead of laying emphasis on abhinaya alone – hitherto considered the mainstay of any classical dance form, including Bharatanatyam.   

With emphasis on individual expression rather than synchronised movement, the choreographed piece created an unusual ensemble performance. Six dancers created music, using their voices added to sound effects. The 70-minute performance showcased erotic, humorous, beautiful or ordinary experiences of human life.

“We are trying to bring dance out of its conventional setting. There is no story behind this dance.  It is real, live and present in the moment. All we do is show emotions. It is upto the audience to assign meaning,” says Navtej, the brain behind this piece.

Collaborating with Ben J Riepe of Germany for the first time, Navtej says the main motto was to challenge repression in the present context of dance. Ben has worked with Pina Bausch and V A Wolff. His work has been showcased at ‘Impuls Tanz Festival’ in Vienna as well as German Dance Platform.

 The project ‘Live’ is three year collaboration between the two artists. The duo will work on how body and techniques in classical Indian and Western dance forms are stereo-typed and not presented in their real form which can be changed. Emphasising that the work is not about cultural exchange, Navtej says, “We share the same ideologies about the present form of dance and wanted to redefine it in our own style.”

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