Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What on Earth were these dancers doing?


Creativity knows no boundaries. So when Delhi-based dance group Kinkini Dhvani decided to do a show based on The What on Earth? Wallbook published by Pratham Books , we should not have been surprised with what Swagata Sen Pillai and her girls came up with. My colleague Manisha Chaudhry, Head of Content Development, had the pleasure of being at the performance and came back spellbound. “This is a THANK YOU as big as the Wallbook... As Loud as the BIG BANG..........As long as the TIMELINE.........And as WARM as tawa-baked roti,” she told the twinkling star-dancers.
“The Wallbook dance production showed how art and learning are on the most natural were all fabulous and your enthusiasm for the idea was contagious. I've not seen so many women having so much fun pretending to be planets, trees, dinosaurs, birds,elephants, monkeys...and yet not losing the finer elements of dance. The music was simple but effective because of the rhythms,” she told them.

With the brilliant Tillana still playing in her mind, Manisha caught up with
Swagata Sen Pillai, Bharatnatyam dancer, choreographer and social development, communication & documentation consultant, for an interview. Excerpts:
How was the experience of dancing the Wallbook?
In one word? INCREDIBLE! In several, one of the most satisfactory ventures we have undertaken!
How long did it take you to put it together?
This was a surprise because we managed to identify the pieces, write the script, sit with the musicians, record the piece, edit and fine-tune it and then choreograph and learn it in-----7 DAYS!
Describe the process to us. Did all your students contribute? Any amusing insights/asides?
The selection was primarily done by Rajesh Khar (from Pratham Books' Editorial team) and myself since the children wanted to do EVERYTHING!!! The students contributed by offering to show who would do what in what manner.....hugely entertaining, and sometimes the cue to an actual piece of choreography. However their greatest contribution lay in their unadulterated enthusiasm! Of course, their simple amazement at some piece of information that they did not previously know was an eye opener at how much we take for granted is part of the knowledge bank of our children - Uuuughhhhhh they were going to eat that meat uncooked?! Trees came from the water? Horses and zebras and giraffes are not MODERN animal? The FOX was the original specimen? There was no oxygen to begin with? Even that came from the water? Questions galore!

Do you think your production bears out Chris's idea of everybody learning in their own unique way?
Most certainly! Considering the fact that even I at almost fifty found the information fascinating and in many that for me it meant different things while to each of the children the input opened up a different trend of thought or that they remembered it in a different manner - sometimes just by connecting to the movement.

Anything you'd like to tell Chris?
I am amazed at the depth of information that has gone into this! Is it really possible for ONE person to have that sort of vision? I would love to sit through one of his sessions and steal shamelessly from his presentations and put them into a full fledged rendition of the Wall Book....civilizations et al! The children loved it, the parents loved it, we had the most gorgeous time and are now already receiving requests from schools to perform for them! Could we please sit together and design something even stronger in visual content? And a heartfelt 'Thank You' for producing such an amazing piece of inspiration!

Thank you, Swagata, I think a longer multimedia production using the phad technique of highlighting certain portions is very much in order. It will be a valuable addition to the many spin-offs that The What on Earth Wallbook has generated and add to the sum total of happiness on the earth!
You can see the video of the performance here.
To get your own copy of The What on Earth? Wallbook, shop online here.

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