One must have larger vision as a curator, says dancer Mayuri Upadhya

by Team ACF
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If you are heading to Goa in December for Serendipity Arts Festival, then make sure you don’t miss the projects helmed by Mayuri Upadhya, Curator for Dance, Serendipity

Arts Festival 2019. For, what she brings on the platter is surely going to get you hooked. In an interaction with ACF, Mayuri elaborated on the concepts of the projects and how breaking conventions has always been her insignia.


How did the opportunity to curate the dance segment for Serendipity Arts Festival 2019 happen? And how was the experience?

I remember my first conversation with Smriti (Director of Serendipity Arts Foundation) about what a curator needs to do. When she said “the entire city is your canvas and creativity your colour” the scope of design became so vast that it challenged me to approach my own craft differently. Whether it is ‘On the Move’ or ‘Once Upon A Time’ what we are aspiring to do is not just present performances but create pockets of unique experiences that leave people changed forever.

The description of On the Move describes you as a curator who breaks free from pre-established dance patterns and goes beyond. However, looking at your career trajectory, this motto seems to be the guiding force of your life. What exactly led you to this unconventional path?

When you are an artiste, creativity kind of trickles down to every part of your DNA. It’s probably because of that, these ideas have taken birth. I realize now that you point out, that I’m not conscious of breaking dance patterns. I’m just being me! I believe dance is like a mound of clay that can constantly change shapes. Shapes that I want to play with break and recreate. It’s my only mother tongue with which I can scribble, write poetry, script a film even a fantasy novel if required. It’s not only about the grammar of the art form but what I do with it how I’m able to effectively communicate with the rest of the world that’s important to me.

There has been a phenomenal transformation in the world of contemporary dance in a decade. Besides, awareness and acceptance of dance as a flourishing professional career, there are many avenues for people to perform (Dance TV shows). As a practising performer, how do you view these changes? Do you think the stage might have grown bigger, but there is more ground to cover?

Thanks to the exposure, time, technology I think there’s been a tremendous growth and a phenomenal change in the field of dance and whether we like it or not, it is here to stay. We don’t have a choice but to flow with what is offered.

I believe today’s lifestyle celebrates unique ideas. The platform may vary. So if you have something innovative to offer that becomes your identity and currently the digital space is the new stage to showcase but it has its flaw. One has to constantly create a sense of excitement. With new age, professional possibilities have opened up but it’s leading to a lot of quantity with not much assurance of quality. Everything is temporal. The time that goes to develop the aesthetic of a craft is something that we are ignoring.

Coming back to Serendipity Arts Festival, as a curator what was your starting point in terms of bringing a variety onto the table. As the line-up of the performances is extremely intriguing and exciting. For instance, Wake Up Call… the marriage between yoga and dance should pull up an audience for sure.

For me, the starting point was to create an eclectic balance. Balance of possibilities between the regional and the international; the trendiest of forms with the most classic; feature soloists alongside teams; to bring the young and energetic with the experienced and evergreen. And by the end, each of these should have the most interesting stories to share with the audience. The style of dancing, the form doesn’t matter as much as how it moves you, touches you and remains with you, inside your heart.

Can you elaborate on the idea behind On the Move? It comes across as an assortment of a highly-energetic range of performances.

It’s always fun and delightful to do street dancing. Whether it is Tapanguchhi of south

India or Hip-hop of international dance arena, there is a sense of accessibility of the form to the body. The international dance battle scene comes with a strong sense of history and purpose. It’s amazing that people channeled their aggression into such a beautiful artistic expression. They used their bodies not for fights but to express themselves. Battle scenes would operate underground in mysterious ways. Their spontaneous interaction mostly was accompanied with other like mediums like graffiti art. And they would usually vanish without leaving any trace of performance.

‘On the Move’ is an inspiration from the street battle scene. Stationed in the multi-level car park area, the entire presentation, right from entries, to selection of artistes to the format we are creating a bubble that brings together the audience and the performer. Usually each street form battles against an opponent of a same genre but here we have a mix of forms -krumpers, b-boyers, whackers, contortionists, breakers, poppers, hip hop dancers.

You have been the principal choreographer for Mughal-e-Azam and now as a curator overseeing so many dance projects. In terms of the nature of the job, which is more demanding or challenging?

The roles and responsibilities as a choreographer versus a curator are extremely different. If you are a choreographer- you think of ‘I’ and when you are a curator you think of ‘us’. The more time I spend within four walls creating something, it is better for choreography. The more I break these walls, erase boundaries and blur definitions, it is better for curation. While curating one must have a larger vision. You cannot limit yourself to something minute; you are not looking at what is best for dance alone but the entire fraternity of art. You are using your art to make a statement infuse a sense of spirit into the society. I hope to put together the best of cutting edge, innovative, meaningful and purposeful work as a curator. When it comes to choreography whether its musicals, large scale works and creating artistic productions you have to understand nature of design and aesthetics. Of course there is choice of movement form but with this one is defining their personal style of visual drama. I definitely enjoy both.

(Serendipity Arts Festival 2019 begins on December 15, 2019 in Goa)

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