After touring cities such as Gangtok, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai, Interpreting Tagore, a presentation by contemporary dance choreographer Astad Deboo, will be performed for the second time in Delhi, on Tuesday. Besides Deboo, it includes eight dancers, who were formerly under the care of the Delhi-based Salaam Baalak Trust, which provides shelter to street and working children.
Last week, Deboo met us in north Delhi, where he was preparing with his troupe for the show, inspired by four compositions of Rabindranath Tagore. Most of the dancers, between the ages of 18 and 28, are professional dancers. One of them is a puppeteer, another, a “budding footballer”.
Asked why he picked this band of boys, Deboo, who has matched steps with stars such as Pink Floyd, turned towards his dancers and said: “A few years ago I was chief guest at a function held by Salaam Baalak and the kids there came to me and asked if I could teach dance to them. I agreed.”
In fact, Interpreting Tagore’s first show in Delhi last year aimed at raising funds for the trust.
“This time, however, these young adults are performing under my production house (Astad Deboo Dance Company),” says the 1947-born artiste, who has won many awards, including the Padma Shri, for his contribution to modern dance in India.
“The boys initially knew only Bollywood dances and had no training in the minimal kind of dances that I do,” says Deboo. “My task began with making them aware of their bodies, how to control its movements, how to concentrate and how to synchronize movements with each other. They were very determined. Today they are role models among their community.”
To demonstrate how much they have evolved from just being imitators of Hindi film dance steps, Deboo asked three of the dancers to take the floor. Against a soft musical score, the dancers lay down in a row. Gently raising their legs—in synchronization—they held the pose for 2 minutes.
“It is not easy to train your body to such flexibility and then hold it in the same position for long,” the dancer said, before getting up from his chair to join his team in a short performance.
Interpreting Tagore includes four Tagore compositions—Surrender, Your Grace, Walking Tall and Awakening. The last showcases Deboo in a solo performance. The poems are recited by Akash Khurana and the music is by nine artistes, including Italian composer Frederico Senesi, who has played percussion for Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia.
The show is free and open to all.
Interpreting Tagore will be staged at 7pm on 12 February, Kamani Auditorium, Mandi House, New Delhi. Passes available at Sahmat, 29, Ferozshah Road, and the Azad Bhavan art gallery, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Azad Bhavan, Indraprastha Estate, New Delhi. For details, call 9820310001.