Israeli dance artists Atalya Baumer and Tamar Mayzlish speak with Dayita Nereyeth about making work in Bangalore, a foreign place.
Dayita: Can you tell me a little bit about the work you are currently making?
Atalya: This is really just a work-in-progress, so I think we should talk about the process. We don’t yet know how it’s going to look. It started more than six months ago, when I was in Bangalore and Tamar was in Israel. We were talking on the phone and communicating a lot, especially with regard to our work and our art. We have known each other for many years—we studied together. And we started to think about this concept of the way we communicate with each other through some barrier because of physical distance. We would communicate through phone or Whatsapp or Skype. We initially started with that concept.
Tamar: We also just had a will to work together. I heard a lot of stories about Atalya living here, in Bangalore. I was very curious about it and I could only imagine it. The connection between Israel and India is something very general that makes us want to work together.
A: Tamar was very keen on peeking into my life here. At the same time, I was very interested in presenting my life to people in Israel. We started communicating through videos. I would create some material and send it to her. She would make something out of it and send it to me. It was kind of a question-and-answer format. What we wanted to research was mainly how we interpreted each other’s work.
T: It became a question of “what was left of it?”. I always miss something if she films from a specific angle. Or there’s a little bit of sun in the studio so I don’t see something. Or I talk on the phone and there is a bad connection so I don’t hear a bit. So it goes through a lot of questions and answers, and finally what is left becomes interesting.
A: Then I went to Israel. So from May to September, I spent some time there. We just had a few meetings and decided to see how to take this work forward in the studio. What we really did was prepare ourselves for coming and working in India. We were in the studio exploring some ideas. We worked with the idea of the barrier and the images of peeking at each other. It’s like this feeling that maybe I’m in a movie and Tamar is looking at me. She interprets what she sees. Maybe she doesn’t see what I think she sees.
T: The image of peeking at someone is perhaps something that’s not allowed. If I stand in a dark street and suddenly there’s a light in a window, I can look inside and see something. So it brings up this whole idea of permission, whether you allow someone to peek into your life.
A: The real process started two and a half weeks ago, when we came here to Bangalore. We worked with four wonderful dancers—Diya Naidu, Prashant More, Priyabrat Panigrahi, and Sahiba Singh. Even though we worked in Israel and Bangalore, we actually came here feeling like we know nothing.
T: We were looking to be influenced by their lives. Even though Atalya is living here, her life is different from their lives. They are also not from Bangalore. So there are levels of being a foreigner to this city. The peeking action is like the first step to release this barrier.
A: We have the image of a wall. Then there is a hole in the wall that you can see. Then slowly you make the hole bigger. The desire is to make this wall go away. We found that so many walls exist between people. The dancers gave many examples:language, fear, judgement. We also work with physical walls, the curtains, and the air, which has the energy and feeling of a wall.
T: We also work on this concept of leaning back on walls because they make us feel safe. But this safety also keeps you apart from something that is behind the wall.
A: There are so many examples of this kind of barrier. I can always say “Sorry, my English is bad”. It’s actually a wall I’m putting up between myself and someone I am communicating with.
T: Another thing we did was use the street, the environment, and inspiration that comes from people. We worked outdoors and tried to peek into other people’s lives. Not just people but also animals…whatever we saw in the street.
A: One dancer was just peeking in on a rooster. Tamar went and looked at lingerie.
T: You get so much information from peeking in the street. You can learn so much about daily lives and cultures. I asked the dancers to try to look like you are seeing things for the first time.
A: One of the dancers smiled at people and took selfies with them and it was amazing. It changed them completely. The wall was broken. We are also planning to use this in the performance.
D: What are some of the challenges you face in this process?
A: I think we both are very different. I don’t usually work with other people. I have worked with Tamar before in some artistic processes, but never in full collaboration. I’m not used to working like that. We work quite well together, but it’s a big challenge everyday to work with Tamar. Not because it’s Tamar, but because I’m not used to any dancer that is equal to me in the decision making. It’s something I really want to do, but at the same time I am finding out how challenging that is.
T: For me it’s always very refreshing to work with someone else. I feel it’s very interesting to collaborate. There is this community of contemporary dancers in Bangalore that wants to be part of the work. They just say yes to a lot of things.
A: It’s also very exhausting. After we finish this one month, we plan to keep on working, but not in the same way or the same timeframe. It’s very intense. I have never done such an intense and short process. We are a bit scared about what will come of it.
T: Scared and very open minded.
D: What is your vision for the piece?
A: We are going to perform in Israel, most probably in December. We are still unsure of the format.
T: It is very important for us to document the process. We film a lot. We are thinking about a dance film, touring in Israel and also India.
A: We’re planning to keep on working as long as I’m in Bangalore. We will tour in India within the next six months. We are also going back to where we started, with Tamar in Israel and I’ll be in Bangalore. Maybe we’ll Skype and take videos once more.
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“From somewhere in the middle” is Ligament’s new section of dance makers reflecting on works in the making. In this edition, long-time Bangalore-based artists Diya Naidu and Hemabharathy Palani, along with visitors Atalya Baumer and Tamar Mayzlish, talk about their still-forming works, which are as diverse as feminist activism and an exercise in communication.
Anger, Touch, And Class In Gender
Between Experience and Choreography
Peeking Through the Barriers
Atalya Baumer & Tamar Mayzlish
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To pick up and run with a magazine that has had another life is never easy. There are those conflicting desires to find close continuity and to just scrap it all and start anew. Ligament 2016-17 reemerges from a half-way point. We want to build on the investigations and insights of the magazine’s past contributors and also find ways to say what they perhaps had wanted to say but could not, or forgot to, in that moment.
Ligament was founded to facilitate the articulation of an evolving language that encompasses the impulses of contemporary dance. The idea of “contemporary” is inherently bound to time, to a sense of history, rather multiple histories unfolding. In its 2016-17 iteration, we hope that Ligament can grapple with the idea of how dance might hold a place in-step with the patterns of active and forming histories, rather than remaining a canonised and pondered response to a bygone world. We’d like to embrace the immediacy of “contemporary”, and invite contributions from dancers, choreographers, arts practitioners, scholars, audience members, readers. In this way, we hope to reach for the intimacies, resistances, and fragilities that permeate the developing field of South Asian contemporary dance.
Articulating a medium as visceral, visual, and ephemeral as dance requires making connections to methods of thought and critique that lie outside evaluative language. So for Ligament 2016-17 we welcome, of course, the critical essay, but also audio, photographs, ekphrastic poems, interviews, and hybrid media of various kinds that might speak to us about dance, carefully and proximately. Like the anatomical connective tissue for which it is named, Ligament, we hope, can help us locate dance in tandem with the many bodies that produce and encapsulate it.
To those who find themselves here for the first time, welcome. And those whom we have met before, we are glad you are back.
—Poorna Swami, Editor
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