an artiste who crosses boundaries and genres Anita Ratnam has forged alliances
with several international dance and theater companies to create full length
evening works for world audiences. In each collaboration, her keen aesthetic,
rooted Indianness and avant garde vision can be seen at play.
"In my art,
collaboration is of primary importance. At the core of living we are interdependent.
The ecology of the artistic journey is to reach that point of balance and
harmony in which all faculties are alive and fully expressed. That still,
vibrant center can be arrived at by confronting the rigidity of our personal
definitions and limitations. Once that confrontation occurs, you realize
that the only path to follow is working together through the visions of
various disciplines and the artists who phrase and articulate their craft
every intersection of cultures, there are worlds within worlds. In every
art form there is a dialogue, some said and others mostly unsaid. In my
work the attempt is to create encounters and moments of intersection.
I grew up
in an India where there was a constant juxtaposition of Indian traditions
with the colonial ethos in education and lifestyle. A convent school education
with a daily dose of 'Moral Science' classes and a college degree in English
Literature provided several windows to the great poets and playwrights
of the West. At home, there was the mandatory study of the Tamil and Sanskrit
texts along with classes in classical music and dance.
By the time
I was eighteen, I was well on my way to being a 'hyphenated Indian'.
As one of the several thousand immigrant women who travelled to North America
in the mid seventies, every notion of 'self',' identity' and 'indian-ness'
was violently challenged. College, romance, marriage, kids and a television
career on permanent over-drive in the anonymous 'salad-bowl' called New
York City further cemented the duality within me, already split along the
sun signs cusp of Taurus and Gemini." Anita Ratnam
collaboration, my work evolves out of layers and layers contributed by
poets, choreographers, composers, musicians and performers. I bring together
and work with all of them to create a unified fabric of the many disciplines.
As our urban cities get more cosmopolitan and multicultural we as world
citizens are constantly readjusting our lives to accommodate newer people
in our midst. And so it is in the area of culture.
collaboration I attempt to cross intellectual frontiers as well as geographic
ones. What can I learn? How can I grow? These are my constant questions.
challenge in cross-cultural work is to avoid distractions and a tendency
to dilute both forms. Inherent in the understanding and performances of
a poetic piece is metaphor and multiple interpretations. This creates opportunity
for artists from different genres to give their interpretation through
their disciplines - visual arts, lighting, music...
How do I
do all this without having training in any dance styles except Bharatanatyam,
Kathakali and Mohiniattam? I have learnt that the expressions of the body
are infinite and we need to unlearn some of our training in order to open
ourselves up to the entire vocabulary available to us as dancers. In doing
so we will not be unfaithful to our source but in tradition is the basis
of our cultural DNA, we can begin to become world citizens in the increasingly
exciting world of art." Anita Ratnam
As a part of
a series of international collaborations with choreographers, composers
and dance historians, Anita Ratnam and
Arangham Dance Theatre worked with Sanskrit
scholar Devesh Soneji (Canada) and artiste Hari Krishnan (Canada), to create
Movements Monuments (1996).
Among her more
prominent international collaborations are A Map
to the Next World (1997) with Joy Harjo & Poetic Justice, USA and
Pratirupa (1997) with modern dancer Alexandra Romanova, Germany.
was a guest artiste and played the title role in Kannagi at the Singapore
Festival of Arts, June,1998, and was invited to choreograph
an act in The Inner World (1998) for the Pangea World Theatre Minneapolis,
In 2001, after
a multi-year exchange between the two choreographers and
their companies, Anita Ratnam, (Artistic Director, ADT, India) and Mark
Taylor (Artistic Director, Dance Alloy, Pittsburgh, USA), premiered
their 30-minute work Dust, with original music by composer Alice Shields
at the Byham Theater, Pittsburgh, in May 2001. It had another two
performances at the Byham between September 13-15, 2001, followed by a
performance at America's most prestigious performing arts university, Swarthmore
College, Pennsylvania, in February 2002.
– December 2002, DUST toured India and received an overwhelming response.
(Check Dust - India Tour for more details).
Choreographer with Lata Pada's members of Sampradaya Dance Company, Toronto,
Anita Ratnam premiered Hyphenated, a 20
minute dance work set on 5 Indo-Canadian dancers in September 2001.
In 2005 Anita
Ratnam worked again with US/Canada- based Hari Krishnan on her new solo
choreography 7 Graces... the many hues of Goddess Tara
, a minimalistic work that draws inspiration from a rich kinetic
landscape of movement including Bharatanatyam, Chinese Wu-Shu martial
arts, Modern Dance, Tibetan liturgical chants and Zen Buddhism.
renowned multi-disciplinary artiste, Peter Chin, Anita plans to create
another solo work Vortext that will have its world premiere in two years.
body is a landscape of experiences, an anthology of images, of texts, of
a database of knowledge. With each new encounter I strengthen my awareness
of what it is to be a woman, an artiste, an Indian.
of who I am and what I project becomes more and more acute. The "I" in
Interculturalism confronts me with the 'other'. This cross pollination
of art and life, of character and self, female and male all echoes the
Vedic concept " I am the world". And perhaps to broaden that demands of
the artists and me I collaborate with, a level of synergistic accountability.
Often it can deteriorate into what we call "avial" or "khichdi", (Indian
dishes containing a mix of items) a little bit of everything thrown in
and nothing really melding but sticking out like eyesores.
of circling each other for a brief moment of earnest intention and then
drifting away again to the comfort of our own specificities on encountering
differences, we must learn to journey together, spiralling around one another,
defining and redefining value systems until we finally arrive at the center
together." Anita Ratnam
by Anita Ratnam & ADT
by visiting artistes
& Allen Kaeja, Canada
Alon, Actor, Director, Singer, Israel
Fraleigh, University of Brockport, New York, USA
Taylor, Dance Alloy, Pittsburgh, USA
Novogrodski, Everett Dance Theatre, USA
Johar, Delhi, India
Freeman, Freeman Dance Company, USA
Anita has travelled
with her work, from the Far East to Europe to the United States, to perform,
choreograph, conduct workshops and
participate in seminars and conferences
on Dance, Theatre and Arts Management.
"Can a dancer
work with a sculptor, a painter, a poet, a filmmaker? In Indian dance we
deal with the aesthetics of form, formalism and a specific structure. We
are told that our art is descended from ancient heritage and that we the
performer, are but a vehicle for a higher awareness.
Yet we as
individuals live in the present...in the here and now. Our emotions are
governed more by what we read in the papers and what we see on TV and in
our everyday lives than by the stories and mythologies we occasionally
represent on stage. We are, as dancers, always walking that fine line between
imagination and logic. Between life and art..." Anita Ratnam