Around 20 people sit along the walls of a basement room that functions as a dance studio in a quiet Delhi neighbourhood. They look on as dancer Veena Basavarajaiah, who is trained in Bharatnatyam, Kalaripayattu and Western classical ballet, moves to the pulse of a metronome, a drum and a Tibetan prayer bell. All through her 10-minute dance piece, titled Maya tatam idam sarvam jagat, she stays within a 2m-wide circle marked out with tiny red bulbs. The Bhagvad Gita-inspired piece is spectacular, but Basavarajaiah’s mentors and facilitators at Gati’s dance residency programme find it much too conventional. With only three weeks left at the time for the final performance, they ask her to strip it of structure and see where it goes. “It’s too clean," one of them says, while another adds, “If you perfect this, we’ve had it."

Fluid grace: Choreographer Swati Mohan develops her Kabir-inspired piece Doha with partner Sangeet. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint

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Founded by dancers, the organization’s activities include conducting workshops in technique and choreography and an online resource for dancers—www.gatidance.com. The residency is Gati’s latest venture, the first instalment of an annual eight-week programme that will provide financial support, mentoring, workshops, rehearsal space and production assistance to emerging dance creators in the country.

Gati’s residency programme, like its other activities, is funded by an assorted list of supporters that range from embassies to national arts organizations and corporations. The list includes Max Mueller Bhavan, the French Embassy, India Habitat Centre, Sangeet Natak Akademi, National School of Drama and Bharat Forge Limited.

Anusha Lall, who facilitates the mix of events along with co-founders Mandeep Raikhy, Mehneer Sudan and Ewa Ferens, says the idea for Gati came when she and her dancer friends were pondering the fate of new dance languages in India. She believes that dance needs to be about a lot more than just showcasing. “Performance is important but it’s the last stage. There’s so much that needs to go into making dance vital; to make it an honest interaction between the artist and the art form," says Lall.

So rare are resources for emerging dance creators in the country that Gati resident Gayatri recalls being “mildly shocked" when she first heard about the programme through an announcement at the 10-day international festival, Attakkalari India Biennial, in Bangalore, in February. “Generally, all of us are pushing furniture around the house and managing with ad hoc spaces, even for ticketed performances. A funded residency for contemporary dance seemed quite unimaginable!"

In India, with its rich tradition of classical forms that emphasize performance, a key area that is ignored is dance creation or choreography.

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