Fri, 14 Feb 2003

Dancer showcases peace and tranquility

Kartika Bagus C., The Jakarta Post, Solo, Central Java

An enthusiastic ovation marked the end of Indian dancer Astad Deboo's last performance of the evening, Every Fragment of Dust is Wakened, in the theater of the Indonesian Arts Institute in the Central Java town of Surakarta.

Performed to an arrangement by Japanese musician Yoichiro Yoshikawa, the dance was one of three -- besides Aahavan and Stepping Out -- recently presented by Deboo in Surakarta.

Every Fragment was energetic, with dancer and choreographer Astad Deboo twirling endlessly in different forms during the 20- minute show.

This work represents the spirit of peace and tranquility inherent in man, which must be sought and applied to life, lest our lives drift along aimlessly.

Among world-class dancers, Astad Deboo is known for his innovative pieces drawn from the classical Indian Kathak and Khatali dances, combined with his knowledge of dance styles the world over.

Anhavan, for instance, performed to music by Amelia Chuni, applies the techniques of Emotion Bhakti, known as the source of the artistic concord and devotion generally represented in Indian dances.

While most dancers dedicate their performances to the Hindu deities Shiva and Ganesha as a form of worship, Astad Deboo devotes his dances to space and the body, which are integrated in his choreography and accompanying music.

In Stepping Out, Bert Ankham arranged the music based on Astad Deboo's interpretations of anxiety and alertness, which were translated into movement using steel stairs as props in an expression of freedom and spontaneity.

According to Deboo, the show was a smooth blend of traditional and modern elements without any segregation between the two styles.

"All emotions can thus be expressed without limits, while the audience's feedback adds to the dancer's zeal," said Deboo, who holds the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, India's most prestigious trophy awarded to performing artists.

Deboo made it clear that Indian traditional dances were not like those featured in Bollywood films. The dances he performed at the theater of Surakarta's art institute, he said, were known as art dances in India.

As a child, Astad Deboo was trained in Kathak classical dance. He was inspired to break away from the tight and binding classical tradition when he met contemporary dance instructor Murray Louis, who asked him to develop a unique style of his own.

The quest led Deboo to a long exploration of the traditional dances of South America, Japan, Europe and China, as well as Indonesia.

In the meantime, his dynamic performances attracted dance critics across the world, from Pina Bausch of the Wuppertal Dance Company in Germany, to Alison Chase of the Pilobulus Company in America.

Recently, Astad Deboo collaborated with traditional drummers and war-themed art singers from northern India, heralding a new development in his art, and has graced the world with his dances in no less than 46 countries.