Sujata Goel

New Performance

Grant Period: Over nine months

Sujata Goel is a choreographer and dancer originally from Chennai and currently based in Auroville. After her training in Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra and studies at the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts in Chennai, Sujata trained in contemporary dance at the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S) in Brussels. This grant enables Sujata to explore her own journey as a dancer through a multi-media performance titled She Said She Was a Dancer and examine her relationship to contemporary dance as a mode of self-expression. This exploration began a year ago when she started working with theatre director, Veenapani Chawla, with the aim of understanding the psyche of Lady Macbeth through the lens of contemporary dance. Her work with Veenapani Chawla evolved into a critique of her journey as a dancer and Sujata came to see it as an opportunity to acquire self-knowledge. In developing a narrative for She Said She Was a Dancer, Sujata will attempt to understand how her own self has been shaped through her journey as a dancer.

This journey will cover three phases. The first being her development as a Bharatanatyam dancer at Kalakshetra in Chennai. In this phase, she will be trained to embody the physical codes of a female dancer as prescribed by the form. However, this will not allow her to translate her own construction of physical codes into practice. In the second phase, she will work with contemporary choreographer, Padmini Chettur, but will find it difficult to attain autonomy for herself as an artist. While working with Chettur, she shall begin to question the high art notion of purity and beauty embedded in Chettur’s contemporary dance work at the social, political and artistic level. This will lead to Sujata asking herself questions about her own identity in contemporary dance. In the last phase, she will be invited to join a leading production house for young choreographers as an artist in a residence at P.A.R.T.S. Here she will create her own work, but finds herself being framed as ‘the exotic dancing doll’ within the European context, while being dissociated from the context of Indian performing traditions.

Sujata admits that she will experience artistic growth while working with various choreographers and dance companies in these different phases. At the same time, she feels that her dancing will serve only as a conduit for the artistic visions of the choreographers she will work with. In the end, Sujata shall arrive at a point where she will neither be willing to play the role of ‘exotic dancing doll’ from India, nor accept a colonised attitude towards her body and form by aspiring to be ‘like the western dancer’. Sujata’s focus in She Said She Was a Dancer will be to create images based on one’s ‘own things’ to tell one’s ‘own stories’. The images shall be drawn from many layers of representations, ranging from suggestive, phantasmatic or mythological images to more realistic or recognisable images of the character. The performance will comprise four main parts: ‘Dark, Evil and Mysterious Woman’, ‘The Seductress’, ‘The Mother/Domesticated Woman’ and ‘The Futuristic Woman’. These parts, representative of clichés, will serve to form a meta-narrative of female identity through a psychological lens.

Sujata shall work on creating visual images with a residency awarded to her by Adishakti. During the residency, she will develop the concept and basic structure of the piece. Methodologically, she will create choreographic phrases through task-oriented improvisation exercises and multi-media images where the body will be reconstructed and deconstructed before finally being assembled, as if performing a self surgery.

She Said She Was a Dancer will be presented in July 2011.