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Interviews

Dominique Delorme

DominiqueBharatanatyam Dancer

Dominique Delorme, a French dancer is working on a choreographic project on the 'Karanas', which he is elaborating at present with Dr. Padma Subramanyam in Chennai.

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A highly-involved and intense dancer now on a sabattical in Madras, Dominique is very active in Europe and has widely traveled in India and abroad. Dominique gave a short but intense presentation, 'Nandanar L' Intouchable', based on 'Nandanar Charithram' in Madras in January. Later, he travelled with Padma Subramanyam, to perform at two temples in Thanjavur District.

On behalf of Malavika, a Bharatanatyam dancer in Paris, he received the 'Vishwa Kala Bharathi' award from Bharat Kalachar, during the sabha's Margazhi Mahotsav in December 2000. Recently, Dominique took time off from his training to talk to Kutcheribuzz Reporter, S. Aruna.

How did you get into dance?
I had my initial training in Bharatanatyam from Malavika in Paris. In 1988, I received a scholarship from the ICCR and the French Ministry of Foreign affairs to continue my training in Madras under Guru V.S. Muthuswamy Pillai.

He shaped me as a Bharatanatyam dancer and with his training I had my arangetram in 1990. The big start in my career was in 1989, when I represented Guru Muthuswamy Pillai and danced the varnam, 'Adave Arulpurivai' at a seminar organized by the Sruti Foundation in Madras.

I've also received special training in abhinaya from guru Kalanidhi Narayanan and Anuradha Jagannathan, in nattuvangam from Kamala Rani and in Carnatic vocal from Sulochana Pattabhiraman. I've lived in Madras for seven years, performed in many cities and then went back to Europe.

Tell us about the Indian classical dance scenario in Paris...
Several Indians have settled down there and quite a number of schools and private tuitions can be seen. Since the 70's, the interest is more, especially after the French revolution in 1968. There was a flourish in the culture and more Indians moved in.

But, one thing is sure. Today, the traditional repertoire is no more efficient! The French know a lot and they expect quality and new presentations. They will be disappointed to see only a Bharatanatyam recital. If you want to convey a message to the western audience, you have to adapt to the imagination of the west. adapt the message but not compromise on the quality. All the dance and music forms of the world have social and universal messages, but there is a different way of presenting.

In Paris, everyday, there are about 1000 performances. There is an opportunity to see artistes from all over the world. There is an interest not only in classical forms but also in other forms like folk and Therukoothu We don't have very good artistes coming to Europe from India. In the west, they expect more.

How can you make it different?
By keeping within the framework of tradition. For example, in the presentation on Nandanar, I never went off stage. even the change of costume was done on stage. A lot of work was done on lighting. In the west, it is the only way to survive.There is nothing exotic about Indian dance. We need to bring out the depth. Today, so much of importance is given to costume and excess jewellery. If the costume is drawing attention, then the importance is not on dance!

Tell us about your project on the 'Karanas'?
In May 1989, I attended a 'Natyashastra Siksha Camp' conducted by Dr. Padma. From that day, I discovered the possibilities of my body. I began to understand that every part of my body was capable of movement. It was a 360 degrees opening of my eyes! I participated in the documentary film, 'Bharata's Natya Shastra' directed by V. Balakrishnan in 1991. I took an interest in 'Karanas'.

In 2000, I applied and was awarded the 'Villa Medicis Hors-Les-Murs' prize from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a choreographic project. I was selected from about 500 applicants. This is a project from August 2000-April 2001. I have learnt the 108 'karanas' and 'Angaharas' (combination of Karanas) and I will be giving a Natya presentation in April, choreographed by Dr. Padma. When I return to France, I will rework the choreography for five dancers who will perform with me.

Why did you choose this theme?
The project is called, 'Les Saveurs des Karanas' (The flavour of Karanas). I find that Karanas are the most beautiful dance movements in the world and I'm also fascinated by the concept of 'Rasa' ( flavour/Aesthetic relish). Rasa and Karanas are related. I wanted to work on the concept of Rasa-Karana and show to the French, how karanas are related to the western classical styles. I wanted to show them the relationship between India and the West.

In western styles, facial expressions are comparatively lesser and the emphasis is on body movements?
Involvement of the soul is there in any style. The big deficiency in western styles is that in the last 20-30 years, the concentration is on body movements. It is not sufficient. They do know about emotions. I want to work with western dancers with their styles and show them how the concept of emotions has been developed in the Natyashastra.

Any tours and new projects coming up?
When it is summer here, I leave Madras to tour Canada and the United States.Between May23 - June23, I will be performing at Marseilles, a port on the south coast of France. I will be working with a Hip-hop dancer from Paris, a Tango dancer and a slave dancer and actor from West Indies.It is a very unique performance called 'Black Label'. It is a 90 minutes presentation that will be staged at the same theatre the entire month. It was created in West Indies a year ago. We expect an audience of about 20,000 people. We will also be going to schools and giving lectures and talks on dance and theatre. The climate will be very good and people from all around the Mediterranean sea will participate.In July-August, I may be giving workshops in France, Germany and S.America.

Dominique can be contacted at No.16, Rue Del'orme, 75019, Paris. Ph/fax: 00 33 (0) 1 44840980. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . His contact phone no. in Chennai: 4420075.