Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The First Indo-American Dance Production in Chennai

Sunday night January 13 we had a triumphant production in Chennai! On Saturday, Maja our trusted Lighting Designer began the technical load in to the large auditorium. On Sunday night the audience filed in and filled the auditorium. There were gorgeous giant posters not just advertising the show but also speaking of the history of John Britto's initial State Dept. visit to the States and how our organizations both began this collaboration in 2006. Two years later the work has really paid off!

John Britto's Dance Company performed the new work I choreographed beautifully. We were all so impressed by their physicality and performance quality. The audience loved the show and we received wonderful reviews in The Hindu newspaper, the NewIndPress and ChennaiOnline.

This was truly a life changing experience which we will remember forever. I know that this experience will open sincere Indo-American relations through dance on an ongoing basis. John launched his new Dance Connect project which will continue to bring American artists to Southern India produced at an extremely high level. My sincere thanks to John Britto and the dancers of the John Britto Dance Company for their hospitality and warmth. My company is forever appreciative!

Warmest, Dana

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A day in the studio

Thursday January 10
In the morning we were back at the studio to warm-up and then do a run-through of the performance pieces. In mid afternoon Dana taught a Master class to students from a local college some of whom are also in John Britto's company. After class our dancers did a couple short pieces to demonstrate modern dance. Then the college students performed one of their high energy dances that they have performed and used in dance competitions. The students did so well in class and their enthusiasm and hard work was very gratifying to see.

In the evening we were invited to dinner at the residence of General Council of the United States. Several US diplomats attended as well as members of a Classical Indian Dance group from Bangalore. It was a wonderful evening of good Indian food and great conversations in a lovely home.

Friday January 11
we all took a day off to go sight seeing. Two of John Britto's dancers took us to Mamallapuram Temple about an hour and a half south of Chennai. It was nice to get out of bustling Chennai and climb around the stone carvings and other interesting structures of this ancient shore temple. The cool breezes of the Bay of Bengal felt very nice on this hot sunny day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The dancers have arrived

Wednesday January 9
The dancers and Maja the lighting designer arrived early Tuesday morning. So the company is all here! We are now ready for the rehearsals and master classes leading up to the performance on Sunday. After checking into the hotel we took the company on a tour of some of the places
Kelly and I thought were interesting so we headed to the beautiful and spiritual Kapaleeshwarer Temple and to the shopping mall to haggle over silk scarves, sandalwood trinkets and embroidered cotton clothing. We also had lunch outdoors at a cool restaurant called Mocha.

The dancers then visited John Britto's studio where his dancer Apu was teaching a children's class. At the end of class the children lined up for a special handshake that they have taught me.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Dance Workshop for Students

Today was the first day back for students at John Britto's Dance Studio. As a treat for them, we taught a couple modern dance classes, which they seemed to really enjoy...everyone had a lot of fun! Some of them had been taking classes at the studio for a few years while others had come for their very first time. In a way, it was refreshing to teach a group of younger dancers because I think we sometimes forget how students of different ages learn and process new material. This was great exposure for them movement wise and also very educating for them as dance viewers in general. I think the young dance students who were part of the workshop and who come to see the upcoming concert will have a very different and more fulfilling experience because they will be able to make connections to the movements they see on stage.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Kelly and Dana celebrate the New Year

New Year's Eve
Today Dana and I visited Kapaleeshwarar Temple, an ancient temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva. This is one of Chennai's largest temples. It could not have been a better day to visit, everything and everyone was decorated in celebration for the new year. The smell of fresh floral wreaths and incense filled the air, streets were marked with chalked designs of prayer symbols..everything had such a magical feel. Truly an amazing experience!

We visited the small market and neighborhood around the temple and purchased a few gifts for family and friends. We celebrated New Year back at the hotel, which was also decorated and very festive. Many people were visiting the hotel to enjoy the various restaurants and was a buzzing place!

Happy New Year Everyone!!

First Day in 2008
Dana and I made our first outing this morning alone...on foot. We are usually guided by a rickshaw driver, but today we felt a little daring. Basically, we only made it two blocks from the hotel before discovering an antique shop and a department store/shopping center. the antiques and furniture were great to see...everything was very beautiful to see. The shopping mall was interesting just out of shear interest of making a comparison to US stores.....visually they are similar as in the US, though there are many more clerks, which consequently makes quite the impact on their service.

By afternoon coffee was in order, hence began the quest for a western style coffee house....they are far and few but when you find'll be content. We found one just a short 5 minute ride from the hotel. Coffee house culture is very popular here because most stay open late and serve as hangouts for young adults. 4 cups of coffee and 2 slices of cake later, Dana and I headed back to the hotel to get ready for evening events.

This evening we were invited to visit Kalakshatra, a private arts school, to attend a production of "Masquerade: The Man in the iron Mask", directed by Sheejith Chakkappoyyan. We received a private tour of the school grounds, walked through the museum, and then had a small snack while we waited for the performance to start. Dana looked up into the trees and noticed a monkey sitting up on a branch. I was personally excited because this was one thing on my India to-do list! So we saw our first wild monkey....he had shown up just a day prior and seemd to be making the place his temporary home. Monkeys don't really present themselves very often in Chennai because populations aren't very exorbitant. It isn't until one travels to New Delhi were you'll see monkeys walking the streets and stealing fruit from markets, etc.

The production of "The Man in the Iron Mask" was presented in the contemporary style, which, we have been told, is the new rage with dance/theatre artists and audiences. It was fascinating to watch because although movement wise the performers were dancing in the Bharatanatyam style of Classical India dance, they were acting out a western and fairly contemporary story. Performances in most South Asian cultures last an average of three-four was amazing to observe the dancers' stamina throughout the performance. It was truly and enjoyable experience!

After the show, it took us about 10 minutes to find a rickshaw to drive us 30 min back to our hotel. Our driver this evening was the most enthusiastic and daring driver we have encountered on our trip. The best way to sum up the experience is to think of yourself as a passenger in a car during a high speed chase in a hollywood film. We were quite thankful when we finally saw the lights of our hotel!

What a way to begin the new year!!

---- Kelly Moss Southall