TALK WITH MIRRA ARUN //
SAT 5 DEC 2015
The talk was attended by members of independent artist group Locus, by dance students at University Campus Suffolk, Gitta Wigro, Independent Dance’s co-director, and Helen Dawson, producer at DanceEast. First Gitta introduced Re:Imagine India, a scheme jointly conceived by Independent Dance in London and Gati Dance in New Delhi to foster artist exchanges between the two cities. Artists are invited to either participate in or to lead a choreographic workshop or to contribute to the other creative development opportunities that are offered to independent dance artists by both organisations.
Mirra Arun was the first artist who was selected to come to London. She participated in the week-long choreographic intensive workshop led by Susan Rethorst. She also presented a solo entitled 'According to official sources', followed by audience feedback.
Mirra explained that in her process she draws from a range of influences, including pop culture, and her approach is multi-media. The sharing of her solo was very well received by the audience at Independent Dance, but she was a bit puzzled by one of the audience member’s responses that it was unexpectedly ‘contemporary’, and that some people seemed to have expected from her to make reference to classical Indian dance forms.
The conversation at DanceEast enabled us to find out a bit more about Mirra’s career so far and how she had arrived at her own creative process. After completing her degree in Commerce Mirra had realised that she had been 'daydreaming about dance all the way along'. Without any formal training (this wasn’t available at the time) Mirra successfully auditioned for Attakkalari Centre for Movement Art in 2002, which is based in Bangalore. The internationally touring dance company was set up in 2000 by its artistic director Jayachandran Palazhy who had spent some years in London training at London Contemporary Dance School. As well as directing his own work, Jayachandran Palazhy has also been inviting international choreographers including Yael Flexer and Constanza Macras to create work for his company.
After leaving the company in 2007, Mirra set herself up as an independent artist.Mirra’s first choreographic work was a duet for her 2 year old son and herself, which she created and performed in her own house, to family and friends and fellow artists. She made a few realisations in this process: ‘The first performance was a flop, he didn’t want to do anything once the audience had arrived. I realised that I need to follow him rather than try to make him do things. I also realised that if you want to create something you can do it anywhere’. This first work was the beginning of a series of improvisation based works with children that Mirra has been creating since.
Working with children has been popular across the globe in the past decade, in fact as the conversation went on, Anna Williams and Tom Roden were performing ‘Doodle Dance’ in the DanceEast’s theatre downstairs, a work that had been created in collaboration with their daughter. Helen explained to us that DanceEast had set up a scheme (MOKO) to commission new work for children. This was created in response to the apparent lack of dance work (there are lots of plays) for children aged 8 – 13 years.
The conversation shifted to support structures dance artists are creating for themselves. Mirra spoke about the collective efforts amongst a group of dance artists in Bangalore to build the infrastructure necessary to research, make and tour dance. We tried to define what type of infra-structures are most useful to us. This includes someone to take care of administration and planning ahead, someone who has a network, access to a studio, access to technical equipment, opportunities to show work at platforms/ festivals, opportunities to engage in professional development, even just the possibility to connect with peers is a form of infra-structure.
To present her recent solo in India, Mirra got together with 4 other artists to tour a mixed bill on an entirely self-funded basis. She is also part of a group of artists who meet spontaneously to share work, to teach each other, and to occasionally invite someone to lead a workshop. Mirra was frustrated by the perceptions she occasionally encounters that local artists’ work was ' less interesting' than those of ‘international’ artists. We all could quickly recall similar situations where it was assumed that people within our local neighbourhood ‘don’t know anything’.
Access to conventional studio and stage spaces is a major issue for Mirra’s collective of artists. One imaginative way of responding to this situation was to create an improvisation based ‘art-walk’ through the city.
Re: Imagine India is an exchange programme between dance artists in the UK and in India.
Sat 5 December 2015, 2 - 4pm// Free and open to all
Talk with dance artist Mirra Arun, exploring the working conditions and innovative support models for independent artists in India and in the UK.
The events take place at
DanceEast, Jerwood Dance House,
Foundry Lane, Ipswich IP4 1DW
Tel: 01473 295230
A new project by partner organisations Independent Dance in London and Gati Dance Forum in New Delhi, realised with additional help from DanceEast and University Campus Suffolk