Mayurbhanj Chhau (disciple of Guru Janmejoy Saibabu) & Odissi dancer (from Colombia, currently living in Madrid). Carolina publishes about Chhau on her own blog: https://chhaudancesangam.wordpress.com/
With the blessing of her Guru, she is currently working on a book about Chhau. Raw materials will be published on the blog.
Could you tell me how your journey as a writer has started and is developed to a concrete form (the blog)? How do you combine it with being a dancer yourself?
I´ve always had an interest in writing and I have always enjoyed focused free writing. I started writing about dance and about Mayurbhanj Chhau in particular because of one particular incident in 2011. I had been practicing partner acrobatics for some time with one of my friends from Chhau class and we were accomplishing crazy stunts. Guruji never liked that I did these kinds of things because it put my dancing career on risk, but we were feeling quite confident and we were doing really amazing stuff. In one of these practices, doing a backward summersault I broke three metatarsals in my foot and was confined to a cast for almost three months. I didn’t take it well in the beginning. It was very hard to accept my condition and to think that for the next three months I was not going to be able to dance. So I had to find a way to overcome all this frustration and guilt for having gone against Guruji’s wishes…I was going to write a blog about Chhau!
So this was the beginning of my blog. Since I had so much free time I spent it into gathering thoughts and information about what I wanted to write and actually writing many entries. I wanted it to be very personal, but yet also informative about this mysterious, and enchanting dance form which is not really known even to many Indians. I also had many things to say as an outsider, or a person of non-Indian origin studying an Indian Dance form, as a woman, and also as the person who in that moment was closest to one of the greatest Chhau dance Gurus still alive (ed. Guru Janmejoy Saibabu).
After getting back on my feet, writing in the blog was not an immediate priority because I had a lot of catching up to do physically and also earning to get by was a big concern during those days. This past year I have attempted to reconnect with my blog for several reasons. The most important one is that Guruji has entrusted me with the task of writing a book on Chhau. I reckon that I should start by polishing some of my entries and writing new ones and that slowly this can become the raw material for my book.
Being a dancer and writing about dance makes a lot of sense for me. Actually, in all the books and information written about Chhau, I find that very few are written by dancers themselves and it is quite obvious. However, I have to say it is not easy because since it is not my main profession I lack many of the skills and methods required for scholarly writing. I also don’t have much time to invest in it, so the progress is very slow. In spite of this I feel writing is essential in the path of becoming a dance expert because it demands me to be able to clearly explain, express and transmit concepts, ideas and information about arts that have become my life’s purpose.
What do you to develop current and new connections with (cultural) institutions, writers, partners?
Unfortunately I could say, I don’t have that much extra time to incur into new connections nowadays. I used to search for webpages that could include me into their blog role, especially the ones related to dance. Apart from this, I have tried to contact and include fellow dancers and writers in my blog role.
In which way do you believe Indian Dance can expand as a performing art form? What do you believe is your role in this purpose?
I believe that part of the way that Indian Dance can become a truly internationally recognized art form is through foreigners who study the various dance styles in a serious and committed way and who later take these styles and try to promote them in their own country. Evidently, also through the Indian dancers who are living abroad and also pursue these art forms professionally. The embassies and government sponsored Indian cultural centres across the world also have a big responsibility regarding this, since they organize Indian troupes that travel around presenting their work. For all these actions to be effective, the performers who carry the arts have to have a real professional level and not just be amateurs. Since many people don’t know anything about Indian Dance it is easy for anyone to get on a stage, dress up in lights and colours and call what they are doing Indian Classical Dance. Therefore, it is fundamental that dancers, scholars and government institutions realize the depth and quality standards that these arts require. As in all fields, not everyone who is Indian can do Indian Classical Dance, not every foreigner who has travelled to India to learn dance has actually learned it. It is our duty to be honest with our own level and to present ourselves as we truly are, not exaggerating our bios. We should honour the tradition and our Gurus.
Part of my role in promoting Indian Dance is to keep training, learning and developing myself as a dancer to master the techniques that I perform so that I can be a worthy representative of these classical styles. Another aspect of it would be to continue writing and sharing related information (written, audio-visual), so that the potential audience can start or continue educating themselves as well.
What is the power of writers in this purpose?
As I mentioned before, writers have a big role in this purpose because they can disclose information unknown to many and in this way influence how other view this field. Writers can expose the current situations, the exponents and their trajectory and also they can provide constructive and reflective criticism towards works presented.
How can we enlarge the connections within the dance community and everyone involved?
Firstly one way would be to create more platforms, webpages and related sites where particular information about the Indian Classical field can be found. Also there should be more cultural institutions who come together to promote these art forms abroad by providing dance programs, lectures demonstrations and workshops.
Photo Juan Carlos Castrillón Vallejo