‘Indians by nature are vulnerable and soft’

Amrita Prasad
Sunday, 26 August 2018

Ace choreographer Ashley Lobo and his Navdhara India Dance Theatre will perform at the Internationale Tanzmesse NRW, Germany. He tells us more about the dance piece Amaara — A Journey of Love he will present, choreographing for films and his special bond with director Imtiaz Ali

For ace choreographer Ashley Lobo, dance is like telling a story. Known for his choreography for films like Cocktail, Rockstar, Guzaarish, Jab We Met, In Othello, Namastey London and so on, Ashley, along with his dance company Navdhara India Dance Theatre (NIDT), will travel to Düsseldorf, Germany, for the Internationale Tanzmesse NRW 2018 to be held between August 29 and September 1. 

The Internationale Tanzmesse NRW, which is held once in every two years, hosts the largest professional gathering dedicated exclusively to contemporary dance from multiple countries across the world without consisting of any specific geographical focus.

The choreographer, who was recently seen in India’s Dancing Superstar on Star Plus, is elated that his dance company has been selected in the top 50 out of 600 entrants across the world to perform in Düsseldorf where his work Amaara — A Journey of Love will be performed. Ashley says it is a big moment, not only for him but also for Indian contemporary dance. 

With his roots in theatre, he is known to bring cinematic magnificence on stage too. Ask him when will we see him directing a film and he answers, “Soon hopefully!” 

Here’s more on his upcoming performance and his passion:  

To be able to perform at Internationale Tanzmesse NRW 2018 is amazing. Do you think this will open up opportunities for other Indian contemporary dancers?  
At most contemporary dance events overseas, whether Navdhara is performing or I am speaking or conducting workshops, people are unaware that we have some good ballet-based contemporary dance in India. To have been selected to perform at  Internationale Tanzmesse NRW 2018 will open many doors, as the world at large will start to recognise that we do have world-class contemporary dance in India. 

Give us a peek into your work Amaara — A Journey of Love. How different is it from your other work? 
Amaara comes from the word amar which means undying. Amaara... plays with this thought. Our other contemporary show Agni is an existential piece, based on flesh and the material plane. Amaara... is more about the other dimension and energy. 

Navdhara India Dance Theatre’s chief mission is to communicate and build bridges between the dance community in India and abroad. How do you marry Indian sensibilities and ethos with Western techniques in your dance and choreography?  
All the dancers of Navdhara are intrinsically Indian, and Indians, by nature, are vulnerable and soft. On top of that, the dancers practise Prana Paint (TM) — a technique that I developed based on yoga and breathing — everyday. It makes their dance and expression very sensitive and personal. This is unique, so even if the physical language is Western, the approach and the ethos of each piece is very Indian. 

In one of your earlier interviews, you’d mentioned that you have to think like a director, not a dancer while choreographing for films. Do you think doing a dance number for films comes with limitations?  
I think it’s important to remember it’s the director’s vision, not yours. As a choreographer, the job is to take the director’s vision to the next level. If you cannot think like a director, there will definitely be a disconnect in that song.  

You were associated with theatre for almost two decades before you did choreography for Socha Na Tha. How is doing a dance drama/ production different from composing choreography for a film?
I always feel, be it films or stage, content is the base. Technology can add value to it. The basic performances, story, narrative, etc have to be strong. This was my learning while doing theatre. Most film songs that I am approached for are more narrative-based songs — songs that are like montages, that take the development of the character or story forward. This is becoming a speciality for me. And my understanding of narrative comes from my theatre background.

You’ve had a long association with Imitaz Ali who is known for a different kind of filmmaking sensibility. How was it working with him? 
Imtiaz is a friend. He and I both did our first film together — Socha Na Tha.  It’s always a pleasure working with him as we sync well. 

Tell us about dance reality shows and you being a part of television.
I am pleased with all the reality shows as it spreads awareness and makes dance as a career more aspired for. That said, we do not have much in terms of formal training in our country.

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