Dance has always been a medium of expression in Indian society, but we have never really considered it as a career choice. Keeping in mind this scenario, Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts was founded to demystify the art form and making dance accessible to all sections of society. Jayachandran Palazhy, creative director and founder, says, “Attakkalari’s aim is to spread the reach of performance arts and to make dance a viable career option for young people. We work to empower young artists by giving them the necessary infrastructure, support and training which will enable them to create fresh physical expressions related to their experiences, memories and thoughts.”
The company’s dance productions articulate human dilemmas and socially relevant ideas through a contemporary performance idiom. Since Attakkalari conducts open workshops, it gives each and every interested person an experience of what it is like to be a dancer in modern times and to identify their skills and passion.
“The students get the best out of the things that they learn here because they are being taught by highly qualified teachers and professional dancers,” he adds. Palazhy says that through their programmes they work with different communities without any cultural and economic barriers and bringing people together.
Snigdha Prabhakar, a senior artist at Attakkalari, says that her father was the one who discovered that she had a sense of rhythm in her movements because of which she was enrolled for Bharatanatyam. After completing her Masters in Science she decided that dance was something she wanted to make a career out of.
“With very limited resources and no guidance at all, it was indeed difficult to consider a stable career in dance,” Prabhakar says. She further adds that even though her parents were reluctant about it at first, she was determined that this is what she wanted to do.
Prabhakar believes that whatever she is today is because she learnt the essence of contemporary dance from Attakkalari and coupled it with passion and hard work. Talking about contemporary dance form, she says that it helped her challenge her mind, physical strength and hold on her movements. “The time I spent training myself in the dance enabled me to have a vocabulary of the various movements of the form,” says the artist.
“The scope of improvement through the technical training helped me strive for perfection and master the power moves of the dance style. It is all about staying rooted to the dance form and yet have the freedom to express creatively,” she adds.
When asked what dancing means to her, the artist says, “It simply helps me to be the person that I am. When I dance, I don’t feel lost, it simply lets me connect mentally with my body.”
This is one of the important reasons why she wants more and more people to come forward and find themselves through dance and be able to make a career out of it. Now that she has become a faculty at the same institute where she studied, Prabhakar says, “Parents still do not fully support the idea of their children making a stable career in dance. However, I believe that it will change over a period of time.”
The dancer points out that even though parents are not fully supportive of the choices of their children, they still support them by enrolling them in a dance institute. “When the parents come for the graduation ceremony, one notices how proud they are for their kids, because the children have put in so much effort and dedication,” she says.
The programmes at Attakkalari are like any other school programme. “We are at the centre, from morning to evening like any other professional course, learning the various techniques, physical movements and endurance,” she says.
As a part of the diploma programme, students are taught about professional stagecraft and lighting, the different movement arts and how to bring their own creativity to the fore. “Our aim is to set a benchmark of excellence and standard here in India, one that will further showcase the inherent talent and beauty of Indian movement arts and make people understand that there is scope for a career in dance,” Prabhakar says.
Virendra Nishad, a budding dancer from Pune has found his calling at Attakkalari and is learning how to dance. “I initially learnt how to dance just by looking at videos. I never had the money to take a formal education in dance but when I was first introduced to the centre, I knew my life would change forever,” Nishad says.
With a scholarship from Attakkalari, he has got a chance to fulfill his dream. Technical knowledge and increased awareness has helped him evolve as a good dancer.
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Attakkalari is conducting an open workshop and auditions for their two year diploma programme in ‘movement arts’ at Dance Oceans, Near RIMS International School, NIBM Road on July 28, 4 to 6 pm