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Choreographer Akshay Sharma opens up on why he focuses more on body than technique

Contemporary dancer and choreographer Akshay Sharma on his new production, a desire to push human capabilities, and expressing without words.

Written by Parul | Updated: January 18, 2020 8:32:06 am
Akshay Sharma, Two Feet and Seven Thousand Words, dance duet, Contemporary Dance form, music and dance, indian express news The Drama of Hardness and Softness. (Photo: Sara Teresa)

The production titled Two Feet and Seven Thousand Words is a duet where two dancers explore connection, despair, loss and a regathering of fragmented landscapes by assembling various moments of crisis. The dance duet that creates images of an echo, the moment of flight, the negotiation of its peak and resolution of the embers of its burn, attempts to capture the panic in a glass in the moment of its crack and its eventual shattering. “It is also the angry bones in my body meeting the fresh cold air of clean winter. The slumbering dog eventually waking up in the middle of the night,” says Akshay Sharma about the philosophy of his latest work, which he has conceived and choreographed. Puneet Jewandah will bring the work to life on stage.

Two Feet and Seven Thousand Words opened in Chandigarh, and will travel around the country. In this exploration as a choreographer, Sharma is influenced by the somatic body, architecture, landscapes, geology and a desire to push human capabilities, to express without words, things that only the moving body can offer. A dancer, choreographer and teacher from Chandigarh, now based in England, Sharma trained at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds, UK and has worked and collaborated with various companies and artistes based in Europe.

Akshay Sharma, Two Feet and Seven Thousand Words, dance duet, Contemporary Dance form, music and dance, indian express news Akshay Sharma in Men and Girls Dance. (Photo: Fevered Sleep)

Armed with a masters in economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), dance, says the 31-year-old dancer, was always close to his heart since childhood. He took classes in jazz, ballet and ballroom dance to understand its intricacies, realising along the journey that he needed more formal training. One of the main reasons was that in India, support for classical dance was more than that for contemporary. At Leeds, where he studied for three years, Sharma underwent rigorous practise, including intensive training in ballet, working with other dancers, learning from teachers around the world and also collaborating with his peers to explore new ways to express. “The more I learned, the more I realised that my interest is more focused on the body than the technique and form. I love movement and the physicality that comes with it, and the discipline, passion and commitment that dance brings with it,” says Sharma, who adds that dance to him means exploring both internal and external spaces.

For the last 12 years, as a dancer and choreographer, Sharma, who works both independently and with other dance companies in the UK, has been looking for what moves him and other people, exploring what surrounds us — people, places, architecture, violence, conflicts, relationships, politics, and freedom.

The ideas, he says, keep evolving with time, as it’s the concept of softness that Sharma is exploring in his work these days, looking deeply into a statement made by his Chinese teacher, who said, ‘Enter the room softly.’ The Drama of Hardness and Softness is a short piece of work that he presented in Leeds. It was a response to violence in everyday life that made him think of exploring softness.

Akshay Sharma, Two Feet and Seven Thousand Words, dance duet, Contemporary Dance form, music and dance, indian express news Two Feet and Seven Thousand Words.

Someone who has inspired him in his endeavours is Theo Deutinger, an architect whose recent work looked at violence and architecture at large. “From the idea you move to the essence of the work, understanding its textures and then training your body to express it. From the voice to the upper body, limbs to the bones, muscles to the back, it could be any aspect. The meaning is secondary; the piece must resonate with people and come through. You want them to take back something, without forcing anything,” says Sharma.

He also created A Fragile Geography, a short work that he made as part of Northern Connections residency. It explored potential parallels of our bodies as “sites of care” to geological sites, where erosion, crystallisation, weathering and accumulation occur. It was offered as a delicate dance with emphasis on intimacy and offerings in a world growing old every day. “It came out as a concern for an ageing body and ageing that is very much present around us,” says Sharma. Another work that is recent and close to his heart is Men and Girls Dance, which looks at the relationship between men and young girls. It is a playful dance that highlights issues and taboos around girls being in the company of men. The dancer is now looking forward to sharing his experiences as part of the workshops he hopes to conduct across India and create informal spaces for dancers to produce new work.

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