The business hub of Nehru Place in south Delhi is no place to dance, surely not in the late hours. But Pune-based performer Rajyashree Ramamurthi could have been spotted there many nights over the last three weeks, rehearsing her steps. “Nehru Place bustles in the day and is deathly still in the night,” says Ramamurthi.
A choreographer, she is part of the Yellow Line Project under which six short dance-films have been made at public spaces in Delhi. A seventh film has been made by artist Sonia Khurana.
Action: Frederic Lombard (left) with dancer Surjit Nongmeikapam. Photo: Karolin Kent
The films will be screened this weekend in Gurgaon and Delhi.
Conceived by the Delhi-based Gati Dance Forum, the project had six choreographers and six film-makers working as teams of two. The “media artists” were shortlisted for a three-week residency programme; each pair selected a public space to film a dance shaped by the aesthetics of the place. Each of the six films is less than 10 minutes long.
The artistes picked obscure locations to “engage with Delhi”. The city’s Navtej Singh Johar and Kyoto’s Ken Furudate tried to “engage” with the pavements of posh Green Park. Imphal’s Surjit Nongmeikapam and Berlin’s Frederic Lombard made the yard of Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station their base, while the Nehru Place shopping centre was taken oven by Ramamurthi and film-maker Desmond Roberts from Delhi. The rickshaw parking in Nizamuddin East was occupied by Pune’s Parimal Phadke and Mumbai’s Dhanya Pilo; Rakesh M.P.S. of Bangalore and Asim Waqif of Delhi sought meaning in a collapsed building on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road.
A hospital construction site in Mehrauli became the dance studio of Bangalore’s Yashaswini R. and Chennai’s Preethi Athreya.
“It’s an unfinished building with four floors of bricks and lots of sawdust,” says dancer Athreya, describing the hospital construction site she went to with film-maker Yashwini every morning at 5.30, returning only in the evening. Athreya is choreographing a contemporary dance form “derived from the body’s interaction with material on site”.
She says: “As the place became familiar, we got tuned to its rhythms at different times of the day. Being a building with lots of window frames and doors, the daylight entered making different patterns. Our film tries to understand what happens when dance meets such a space. A structure is not merely an enclosure of walls; its sensibilities are also affected by what happens within them.”
Before Ramamurthi and her film-maker colleague Roberts could choreograph, she had to make sense of chaotic Nehru Place. “It’s the centre for pirated software, while overlooking the market are high-rises, which house software MNCs. We have used subtle references to this irony by framing the towers in relation to the surroundings.”
The duo also befriended a labourer in the area who was “a brilliant mover”. He features in the film.
“We haven’t made Nehru Place just a backdrop. We have responded to it, creating original movements that resonate with its character,” says Ramamurthi. “Our film has turned out to be a collection of vignettes on the mundane and surreal happenings that we have observed, framed and also imagined.”
17 December, 7pm, Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon.
18 December, 7pm, KHOJ International Artists’ Association, Khirkee Extension, New Delhi.