Soorya Dance – Indian Rhythms

As a rule, I don’t do email interviews. I certainly prefer not to do them with a person I’ve not met, whose work I’ve only just encountered – unless I’m well-versed with them and their work, or the genre or tradition with which they’re working, the result can only ever scratch the surface.

See, a face-to-face, or even a phoner, gives room to make mistakes and be corrected in such a way that there are supplementary questions to be asked, tangents to go off on and a ‘story’ to be told from the richest vein of questioning. Then you go back to primary sources as necessary for as much background as is required.

Without all of that, the email interview is at best, the basics, and at worst – unless of course you’ve got all the information at your fingertips – bland. But what’s good is it is short and sweet. (In a way, what I’m really saying is I would have loved to have more of a discussion on how the Caste system still operates, if indeed it does still operate, given globalisation and local cultures going international… oh well, not to be.)

So.

Here are some questions answered by Soorya Krishnamoorthy via emal, that only scratch the surface of India’s Rhythms – Ancient Dance, Exploding Beats, Modern Moves, a showcase of dance at the Seymour Centre tonight. There is a heap more information worth pursuing. For starters, consider the press release – one of the most expansive with which I’ve been serviced by a publicist. And the website.

Show starts at 7pm at The Seymour Centre.

  Sooryapic

Dom Romeo: You’ve chosen to present four of the eight Indian dance styles to present in Indian Rhythms; why only four and why those four?

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: There are only six forms of classical dance in India, mohiniyattam, bharathanatyam, kuchupudi, odissi, kathak and manipuri. I have in my programme four classical dance forms. When the show is presented in India, all the six are there. It’s very expensive to have all the six in a foreign country since all perform in group.

Dom Romeo: For the uninitiated, how do the four styles differ? What do they have in common? What will we be seeing?

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: The four classical dances differ in language and technique. Costumes and make up are different. What is common is the bhakthi element.

Dom Romeo: These are traditional dances from different parts of India. What is their history? Did they all develop at the same time in different places, or are some older than others? Do any of them serve as ‘antecedents’ for others?

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: All the classical dances of India are not created at the same time. The latest creation could be mohiniyattam

Dom Romeo: You are also including a modern dancing style as the fifth item. Why?

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: I am not including modern dance, it’s contemporary dance.

Dom Romeo: Tell me about how this modern dance relates to the other more traditional dances.

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: This dance is a combination of all the finer elements of these classical dances plus the martial art kalaripayattu and meditation.

Dom Romeo: In recent years ‘Bollywood’ cinema – featuring traditional and modern variations of Indian dance has gained a following worldwide. What enabled it to gain such a following?

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: Bollywood dances of the Hindi cinema are cinematic dances and are mostly vulgar in nature, they don’t stick to the classical traditions. They don’t represent the rich culture of India.

Dom Romeo: Tell me about your own career in arts and culture – how did you begin? Was dancing your first passion? Is a career in the arts something people are born into, as a continuation of the caste system (and indeed, is the caste system still rigidly in place?)

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: All details of mine can be had from my web site www.sooryaindia.com. I am not a dancer, I am a director. Basically I am a theatre person, writer and director. I write and direct light and sound shows, plays (dramas), and stage shows.  The programme The Rhythm is conceived, designed, and directed by me.

Dom Romeo: How do you establish a cultural entity with no official offices and staff?

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: From the inception of 'soorya', 33 years back, we never wanted to have an office or paid staff. The entire work is done by volunteers and art enthusiasts. We believe that any work of this nature, should be strictly non commercial. We want to avoid any sort of establishment or over head costs. Soorya has chapters in 22 countries, no where we have office or paid staff.

Dom Romeo: You’ve presented this show around the world – do some countries take to it more readily than others, and if so, why?

SOORYA KRISHNAMOORTHY: Soorya has chapters in gulf, far east Europe and Australia. Everywhere we get uniformly good response, I find the same enthusiasm everywhere, It’s GOD's grace.


Paris Can Can

I’m willing to admit that if I made an extra effort to listen back to the minidisc, I could work out who actually said what, but let’s face it: it was nine in the morning and I was in the presence of five pretty, Britty, witty, titty dancers who, the Irish one aside, had similar enough voices to not make much difference as to who was talking anyway. Just assume that where ‘A DANCER’ follows ‘A DANCER’ that they are two different dancers. The dialogue is also interspersed with that wretched (although, in this instance, it seems to work quite well) Fatboy Slim can can number from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge. If you don’t believe me, listen for yourself.


I feel a bit foolish saying that I didn’t even make it to the media junket. It clashed with the media junket for The Idea of North. It was a cute dilemma to be faced with: ethereal singing by people who, traditionally, and for the utmost enjoyment by the most hardcore of fans, would have been considered godbotherers
in extremis (in excellis deo I’m also tempted to add) versus earthy dancing by people who, traditionally, and for the utmost enjoyment by the most hardcore of fans, would have been considered filles de joie . However, not having a secretary, an orderly routine or a clutter-free desk or life, I forgot I had either function on and spent the evening watching DVDs I’m supposed to be reviewing for FilmInk.

The interview went to air on ABC NewsRadio on Saturday 19 June 2004.


Soundbite:Because We Can’ by Fatboy Slim, from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge


Because we can, can, can
Yes we can, can, can
Yes we can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can, oh

Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh


A DANCER: Hi, my name is Shareen.

A DANCER: Hi there, my name is Sharleen.

A DANCER: Hello there, I’m Claire.

A DANCER: Hi, I’m Emma.

A DANCER: And I’m Katy.

Demetrius Romeo: I’m a bit surprised; I was expecting you all to have French accents. What’s the story?

A DANCER: Well, not all the cast is French. We have some English, some Irish, some French, some Belgian, some American… quite a mixture, actually.

Soundbite: ‘Because We Can’ by Fatboy Slim, from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge


Can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can
Can,
Can,
Can,
Can,
Can

Demetrius Romeo: What sort of training do you need to dance with the Paris Can Can?

A DANCER: Mostly a classical background. We all started dancing when we were very young, and when we went to college we all ventured out into different – like contemporary, jazz, tap, modern… all, really –aspects of theatre.

Demetrius Romeo: What does this sort of dancing ask of you that all of those other genres and styles don’t?

A DANCER: Well the Can Can show is a very, very energetic, very, very hard type of dancing. It keeps us fit as well. Lots of stamina is involved. Also, ballerinas don’t scream like we do.

Soundbite: ‘Because We Can’ by Fatboy Slim, from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge


Bumpy Bumpy (oh, oh)
Bumpy Bumpy (oh, oh)
Bumpy Bumpy (oh, oh)

Demetrius Romeo: When the can can was invented it was a very raunchy dance; nowadays values have changed. How does the public relate to the can can now, and does it still titillate as it used to?

A DANCER: Definitely. It’s still the same. We have different aspects in the show where it goes from the old style can can and Offenbach through to the modern can can where we have the Fatboy Slim version from the Moulin Rouge film. We’ve just got a different aspect from the old to the new and with the variation in the middle, a lot of variety. I think, yeah, it’s still ‘raunchy’, but let’s not call it ‘raunchy’, let’s have it a bit ‘sexier’ I suppose. It’s pretty, from big costumes to small bikini costumes and feathers, there’s a real variety in the show.

Soundbite: ‘Because We Can’ by Fatboy Slim, from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge


Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh

Demetrius Romeo: Has the film Moulin Rouge changed the public’s perception of what it is you do?

A DANCER: I think it’s just renewed the whole can can dance, because people used to see it as a traditional dance, whereas now it’s come into the new world, it’s more of a modern dance. So it’s just brought the can can up to date.

Soundbite: ‘Because We Can’ by Fatboy Slim, from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge


Bumpy Bumpy (oh, oh)
Bumpy Bumpy (oh, oh)
Bumpy Bumpy (oh, oh)
(Grinding) (oh, oh)
Bumpy Bumpy (oh, oh)
Bumpy Bumpy (oh, oh)

Can can, can
(Can, can, can)


A DANCER: People recognise it more because they can relate to the movie, whereby they may not have known really what the can can was about prior to the movie.

Demetrius Romeo: What other sort of contemporary music can the can can be danced to?

A DANCER: Well, not just the can can in our show, the other music that we have in our show is Christina Agrilera’s ‘Roxanne’, Shaggy’s ‘Sexy Lady’, which is not can can but still has the French way with it and we’re dressed in lingerie, so that brings the sexy element into show – but obviously very tastefully done as well!

A DANCER: It’s a French-themed show, it’s a traditional French cabaret-type show brought into the here and now.

A DANCER: But they’re all with the can can feel to it – the French feel, should I say.

Soundbite: ‘Because We Can’ by Fatboy Slim, from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge


Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Everybody can, can

Oh, oh


Demetrius Romeo: Traditionally the can can embodied political subversion and social change. Does that element still exist in what you do?

A DANCER: Well, the can can was a forbidden dance to begin with, and now, obviously, it’s not a forbidden dance. Now, we’re just trying to bring the audience and the people on stage to make it still a social dance.

Demetrius Romeo: What’s the audience response been like?

A DANCER: They love it, because it is such a high-impact, energetic, passionate show. They want to scream and shout along with us. It’s almost like they want to be on the stage with us, so it’s a really nice feeling in the whole house.

A DANCER: We prefer it when they stand up and they clap because it helps us. It makes it easier for us on the stage because the legs go higher and we scream louder.

Soundbite: ‘Because We Can’ by Fatboy Slim, from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge


Everybody can, can

Because we can, can, can
Yes we can, can, can
Yes we can, can, can
Because we can, can, can
Yes we can, can, can
Yes we can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can


Demetrius Romeo: Tell me about some of the other acts that are in the show.

A DANCER: Well we have many other talented people. We have a fantastic singer all the way from France! We have a balancing act – they are just amazing; the things they do are just incredible. We have an aerial act – a lady; she sort of hangs and spins around a silk hanging from the top of the stage. It’s just amazing as well. We have a beautiful ballroom couple. Is that everyone? Oh! A juggler as well, and of course we have some acrobats in the show. They dance and have some amazing flips and tumbles.

Demetrius Romeo: So it’s really a visual extravaganza.

A DANCER: Oh yes, definitely.

A DANCER: Absolutely. It’s not only about the dancing, it’s about everything else. The whole show – complete show.

Soundbite: ‘Because We Can’ by Fatboy Slim, from the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge


Because we can, can, can
(Can, can, can)
Because we can, can, can
(Can, can, can)
Because we can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can
Can, can, can, can
Cacacaca cacacaca
Cacacaca cacacaca
Oh

Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Oh, oh