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French connecting with Indian sensitivities

New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) France is connecting to India with new arts projects from Indian cultural sensitivities at the ongoing three-month long Bonjour festival in 16 Indian cities. It began Jan 26 here and will close in April.

More than 1,000 French artistes are simaltaneously performing in 16 cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Kolkata, in the "Bonjour India 2013-Festival of France", with some groups hopping from one city to another to showcase their artistic intellectualism.

Among the new dance projects by the French performers are "Ganga" and "Urban Ballet" of traditional and contemporary free-style ballet choreographies.

It points to the growing synergy of France with Indian dance forms and the new hip-hop sub-cultures coming out of the fringe urban neighbourhood, including those of India.

"Ganga" is a tribute to the spiritual relevance of the 2,525-km river in the Indian culture, and is a contemporary dance choreographed by French Mohiniattam dancer, Brigitte Chataignier.

Chataignier, who studied Mohiniattam at Kalamandalam in Kerala, uses the river as a analogy to chronicle the journey of a spiritual dancer, whose rhythm is controlled by the flow of the river.

The dancer, who spends her time between Kerala and Paris, binds her choreography to India with its narrative of the river, considered to be the country's soul, and with a cross-cultural crew hosting artistes from Kolkata.

"The project began in 2011 as a French choreography. We changed it as we moved across France according to the demand and the nature of the audience," Chataignier told IANS.

Before performing here Feb 9-10 at the Bonjour festival, Chataignier spent a week in Kolkata to put her team of artistes from Kolkata together and "study the course of the river in maturity and redefine the body language".

"Ganga" is one of the four Indian choreographies by Chataignier based on French poet Zeno Bianu's compositions. Bianu, a reputed poet who has translated some work of Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurthi into French, explores Indian spirituality and mythology in his poetry.

French choreographer and dancer Anthony Egea, on the other hand, has connected to younger audiences in eight cities of India with his hybrid production, "Urban Ballet" that combines classical ballet with hip-hop, jazz dance, free-style funk and break dances.

At a performance in the capital on Monday, the 10-member ensemble brought to stage slices of "French urban life and existential angst of young city slickers" with complex body language and a powerful musical score.

"Urban Ballet represents a concept that is becoming popular among the new generation of dancers in Paris and other European capitals," assistant choreographer Celia Thomas explained.

The troupe is open to collaborating with Indian hip-hop dancers, a growing lot of poor teenage working boys in the Indian metros.

Choreographies apart, a play, "Gates to India Song", an adaptation of two cross-cultural French novels, "India Song" and "The Vice Consul" by Marguerite Duras will cast Indian actress Nandita Das in a central character.

Describing the nature of the adaptation, director Eric Vigner said: "The two texts are inspired by a common nature, an imaginary India. I wanted a cross-cultural cast to relate to the Indian audience."

The "Vice-Consul", a love story between the French ambassador's wife and the vice-consul in Lahore in 1930s Kolkata, was rewritten by the Duras 10 years after the original for her film, "India Song". The play will open in the capital early March.

Bon Jour has been culturally relating to India since Jan 26, the day the festival began with "Ballet Preljocaj".

The contemporary ballet theatre, inspired by the Apocalypse of Saint John, was created by Angelin Preljocaj with Indian artist Subodh Gupta and the Bolshoi Theatre.

On Feb 14, two light sculptures Nandita Pal Choudhuri and Patrick Rimoux will illuminate the Jantar Mantar in the capital with light art. Franco Indian designer duo Lecoanet-Hemant will present their collection of light dresses against the backdrop.

Madhusree Chatterjee

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