The fusion of contemporary dance, non-dance movement and theatre

Budha Chingtham
There is nothing that cannot be assimilated into theatre. It is an interesting art form that can merge anything. That is why there is pleasure in analysing the minute details of theatre. Again, it would be an impossible task to digest every detail of this art form. The reason is that theatre is the king of all art forms. So, the stage where plays are shown is compared to human life. Not only this, the stage is the meeting place of all the arts.
Our whole life can be spent analysing theatre. So, the article only attempts to dwell on a minute part of theatre by focusing on the current theatre performance: contemporary dance and non-dance movement where there is no verbal expression.
Audience who are watching this form of performance can interpret it from their own perspective depending on their own experiences. They can watch it to simply enjoy and at the same time, they can also witness the different narratives that are hidden in the movements and engage their minds on it.
Today, this contemporary theatre which created a strong wave in USA and Europe has reached every part of the world. However, the challenge lies in producing quality performances. The local theatre finds it hard to follow the professional companies and the professional dancers of the West. The reason for this is that the artistes here lack skill and training.
The above mentioned theatre and its wave reached this land around twenty years ago.  This has its impact not only in theatre but also in dance drama. However, so far the performances are not up to the mark. Only one or two are worth the praise. It is not difficult to find the reason for this. In order to produce quality performances that match this new movement whether in the realm of Dance drama or Theatre performances what is required are good directors, good choreographers, good music composers and good performers.
So, a choreographer who is contributing a lot to such performances needs to be perfect. Highlighting the choreographer’s contribution, he will play a significant role in making decisions of any work whether the work deals with an abstract idea or a narrative. This art form gives privilege to the choreographer to freely display his potential.
This independent attitude of the choreographers can be a disadvantage to the play. They sometimes choreograph according to their whims and by doing so, they leave out the minute details like some phrases or some narratives in getting the whole which again affects the narrative of the play. They are also responsible for many things which are costume, aesthetic value and composition.
Again, the role of theatre music enhances and its dimension expands with this new wave in theatre. They have to work now keeping in mind that they are providing the backdrop of the performance.
The soul of a performance is the performer. The other parts of theatre are no doubt important but one can still perform without it. But a performance without a performer is impossible.
There cannot be a performance without a performer. So, it is very important to select skilled and trained performer for the success of a performance. The zeal and the urge to learn, the will to persevere and the belief in his profession are required in a performer for the performance to reach its zenith.
The actor’s body is like moulding clay for a choreographer. An actor has to know how to make creatively moving design and how to use his muscle. He has to work very hard. He has to struggle and make his body accustomed to give the required expression. An interesting thing about this contemporary performance is that the actor now is making his verbal expression and his kinetic countenance goes hand in hand in his performance. In short, this form does not make the actors who are accustomed to high verbal skill give up this skill totally.
Those who are actively pursuing and working on the new contemporary theatre expression can take a note on what has been discussed so far as their reference. It can be noted here that this new wave brings in a shift in the focus of theatre from that of collaborative process of the writer, director, designer and composer to choreographer.
There is this shift because the choreographer has become the soul of theatre and he is the one who will manage the production and interpretation of many components relating to the setting of the play. The components are language through movement, behavioural activities, dance style and theatre movement and lavish language.
There is an element in the above mentioned wave of theatre which pleases and entertains the audience. There are two ways to look at this trend of theatre. On one hand, the audience will witness the traditional forms of art which may be traditional forms of art which may be traditional Meitei dance, folksongs, “Meitei sarit-sarat” and “Meitei Thang-Ta”.
On the other hand, they will find classical dance, folk dance, contemporary movement and multi-media. So, there is this blending of tradition and modernity. Now there are two problems in this. The use of traditional art forms makes the work too regional. Nowadays, audiences are losing interest in it because of the redundancy of the usage of our cultural forms with no innovation in many performances. So, there is a dire need to bring innovation in our cultural forms. Only then, the directors and choreographers will be able to prove their worth.
Another problem mostly faced in Manipur is the habit of following and blindly imitating what one starts. For instance, one director started using multi-media in theatre and it became famous. Then there will be a host of other directors using those multi-media in theatre.
The use of multi-media in theatre should be done judiciously. Several questions can be raised as to the usage of multi-media which are: What is it used for ? What does he attempt to project by using it ? What kind of idea needs to be expressed or enhanced by the use of multi-media ? Are the multi-media space and theatre space conducive ? How are the actors controlling the multi-media in their performances ?
These are the problems and challenges faced by the forerunners of Manipur theatre in their search for new form of theatre. So, this article drives home the need for conscious effort by the theatre personalities in their journey of experimental performance when they are trying to get a fusion of contemporary dance, non-dance movement and theatre.