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‘For me life is dance’

It is generally perceived that the contemporary dance form does not have a strict format and is not related to traditional dance. But actually, it is a dance form which is spontaneous, yet has a layout and is also inspired from traditions. In other words, it is inspired from the community and life itself.

Contemporary dancer and choreographer, Sheela Raj, who has conceptualised a dance event at Gallery Gitanjali, says, “Our dance is totally contemporary. But, it doesn’t mean that that we negate traditions.”

On January 17, her dancers, Pradeep Sati, Meghna Bhardvaj and Sanchita Sharma, will take inspirations from the art works displayed at the gallery and will perform. “We will also put this performance on Skype and share it with the dancers and theatre artists of the world and then inspired from this, they will share their performance with us through Skype”, says Sheela, who has won a triple scholarship to the Marta Graham Studio, the Merce Cunningham Studio and The New York School of Ballet, then danced with the NY based company Twyla Tharp & Dancers after having been a member of the very first London Contemporary Dance Theater.

Speaking about her journey as a dancer, she says, “For me life is dance. I find choreography in every movement. It is because I am trained as a dancer. I started dancing when I was just four years old. When I was 17, I went abroad to learn more about dance and was exposed to contemporary dance, which itself was in the formatting stage.”

She had the privilege of working closely with great teachers in the creative arts of the East and West (dance, music, theatre) and also with spiritual masters in the field of Yoga and Tibetan and Zen Buddhism. These encounters enabled her to define and classify her teaching methods in the system of ‘Moving breath’, which brings together both traditional and contemporary creative techniques in yoga, voice, rhythm and dance and also lays emphasis on improvisation and group dynamics as well as her original method of breath and movement coordination in preparatory exercises.

She has now returned to India and is teaching dance to young students at Delhi. “When I teach dance, it is not just about learning a dance format. It is working on our own uniqueness as a moving body”, she says.

When asked about performing in Goa, she says, “It was by chance that I happened to visit this gallery and it inspired me to have a performance here. This place spoke to me. Also I find that Goa is an open place where people have open mind. There’s not much resistance to new concepts. Along with this event, we are also performing at the Story of Light festival where we are part of four installations.”

(The dance performance will be held on January 17 at 6 p.m. at Gallery Gitanjali, Fontainhas, Panaji. It is presented by “The heArtLight collective: dedicated to Merce Cunningham and John Cage and the magic of chance.” This presentation is part of the MYAD initiative, New Delhi. It is open to all.)

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