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Open door, open mind



Saying it through gestures...French choreographer Michel Kelemenis in New Delhi. Photos: S. Subramanium.

SOUNDS, LIGHTS, curtains up. Let the dance begin. The audience settles down to stillness as the performer gets to work. And the harder dancers have worked at acquiring their skills, the easier looks the end result. Unless the audience consists of people trained in dance, therefore, the hours and days and months of preparation will remain - well, just what they are: off-stage work. There may be advantages to this element of aloofness in the relationship between performers and audiences, but some people prefer to bridge the gap. Among such artistes is Michel Kelemenis, a French choreographer and contemporary dancer who performed in Delhi this past week.

He regularly invites the public to his studio in Marseille, in the South of France, and he and his fellow dancers thrive on the feedback they receive. Perhaps that's why one of the pieces he performed in India is all about a day in the life of a dancer, or about a work in progress, an attempt to remove the mystique, though not the magic, of a performance for a lay audience.


Michel's foray into contemporary dance was not through the classical route, as often happens. He is not a ballet dancer searching to extend his vocabulary. He is a gymnast who at 17, tired of the competitive compulsions of the profession but not the joy of movement, and resolved his dilemma by becoming a dancer. It was a workshop conducted by an American dancer visiting his lycee - high school - that provided Michel with his transit point. Since turning professional he founded his dance company, Compagnie Michel Kelemenis and has choreographed a number of pieces for his own group - whose dancers have both contemporary and classical ballet backgrounds - as well as for bigger companies like the Opera de Paris.

Part of an extended interaction between Indian and French artistes organised by the French Embassy and the Alliance Francaise de Delhi, Michel's visit to India began with a week of workshops in Bangalore where he met dancers from the well-known company Attakkalari and others from various countries. After the Delhi performance he zipped back to Bangalore to perform for the Bangalore Biennial, the international festival of movement arts now into its third edition that will come to a close this Tuesday. Michel's shows in India - including cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Pondicherry and Chennai - are described as "visiting card" performances, since they are intended to showcase his style and approach, ahead of a three-year collaboration with selected Indian artistes.

ANJANA RAJAN

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