Indian dance through postage stamps
The Indian Posts and Telegraph Department regularly issues stamps to celebrate people, places, the environment, and moments of historical importance. Stamps, although tiny pieces of paper, are currency, unwitting travellers and, eventually, historical archive. Here are some stamps issued to celebrate India’s dances and dance makers.
American choreographer Remy Charlip, when he could not choreograph on a dancer in person, invented his seminal “Air Mail Dances”. He sent dancers postcards with drawings of different poses, but how those poses connected and coalesced into a dance was left to the dancers’ physical replies.
Such connections between dance and the epistolary are not hard to find. There are the back-and-forth musical sequences between Bollywood lovers, the forever complicated triangle between Radha, Krishna, and the sakhi of classical dance. And there are also real correspondences that give us insight into particular choreographies, processes, and historical developments. European travellers writing home about Nautch girls. Merce Cunnigham and John Cage on creating by chance. Or letters to the editors of newspapers arguing for and against the dances of devadasis.
Ligament’s first 2017 issue looks at the epistolary impulses— exchanges of secrets, loves, epiphanies, and feuds—in different dances. The issue also reframes letter, postcard, and email writing as a potentially more intimate and immediate way to write about and respond to dance.
In a string of correspondence between Karthika Nair and Tishani Doshi published in Granta (130: April 2015), Nair writes that dance is like “calligraphy on water, the cat’s paw ripple that vanishes even as it is created, but one that marks the landscape in that act of evanescence”. The epistolary shares this transience. Although preservable in the receiver’s archive, a letter, once it is written and sent (maybe even to get lost along the way), ceases to be for the one who wrote it.
Indian dance through postage stamps
Fabien Prioville’s recent site-specific work with Attakkalari diploma students
Choreographer Joshua Sailo sends movement from a historic site.
Dancer Ranjana Dave ponders Classical love in the Digital Age
FACETS resident Sujay Saple writes a postcard to himself as part of “From somewhere in the middle”
Theatre maker Deepika Arwind writes to her dancer collaborators as part of “From somewhere in the middle”
A letter from dancer Poorna Swami’s correspondence
Two composers and two dancers write letters in sound and movement
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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