First published in Ligament, an online dance journal, during the Writing on Dance Lab at the Attakkalari India Biennial, February 2015.
Cover photo courtesy Ranjana Dave, for Ligament.
Taking off from Nithin Manayath’s Wishlist: An Ideal Dance Residency in the Subcontinent, Ranjana Dave, a participant at the Writing on Dance Lab, reflected on the idea of residency and incubation spaces in contemporary dance.
How did emerging choreographers create work in the age before residencies? Actually, let us rephrase that – how do most emerging choreographers continue to create work? If they are lucky, they can bar their families from the living room and push the furniture to the walls. Perhaps even balance a shred of mirror against one wall. Maybe there’s a terrace that’s not overrun by the junk that doesn’t fit inside the house. Or they find a patch of the building garden, and try to work unobserved. Perhaps, there is an opportunity to go away and find inspiration on a farm. And if they are extremely fortunate, they have access to a studio space, either lent by considerate friends or an arrangement that is bleeding them dry.
Let us, in the interest of furthering this argument, concur that there is space, however unsuitable, negligible or expensive it may be. What’s next? Does the choreographer need a collaborator – a dramaturg, a set designer, dance production support, a composer? An opportunity to perform? Or perhaps, no pressure to perform, only three meals a day and the space and time to think?
Contemporary dance residencies, to a certain extent, were formulated to address these concerns. As formal structures that facilitate dance-making, they are a recent phenomenon. In the subcontinent, most often, they are organised by groups of artists who have felt the absence of such spaces in their own practice. Over a short period of time, they offer the maker rehearsal space, mentoring, design inputs, production support (and budgets) and sometimes a small stipend and accommodation. They could culminate in a work-in-progress showcase or in premieres of full-grown performance.
After a residency, the choreographer could continue working on a piece, should they find the means to do so, try to perform it in its present form, or bury it. A piece of dance created at a residency is going to be influenced by the support, or conversely, tensions that emerge from making work in a facilitated environment. In our time at the Writing on Dance Lab, we have touched on some of these factors, without always finding clear answers to our questions. How can a mentor support a fledgling choreographer, for instance? Should they step in and direct the work from the wings, or let the choreographer notch up a few bruises in trying things out? More importantly, whose aesthetic should the work reflect? Is it the aesthetic that organisers and mentors thinkthe work should reflect, or is it an aesthetic that the choreographer squarely and comfortably inhabits, even if it is not on the same plane as the former?
Read the rest of the piece here…