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Performing arts needs professional management in India: Dance guru Jonathan Hollander


New Delhi: With modern dance becoming an important communication tool to address the needs of the community and spur changes at the deepest levels of society, there is need to professionalize the management of performing arts, says one of the world’s top choreographers, who wants to set up an institution for this in India.

Indian performing arts organizations will "need to embrace the idea that they need to be managed in a professional manner like any other business to make an impact at the grassroots," says Jonathan Hollander, who is trying to set up an Arts Management Institute in India.

"The organizations in India will have to say that we are going to have an arts management school… And a professional group will have to help set it up and run it," said Hollander, the founder of the New York-based Battery Dance Company.

Hollander, who has choreographed 75 dance productions since 1976, said he was looking for arts organizations and funding agencies which would help him get his dream off the ground.

The Battery Dance Company, located on Broadway, is one of the oldest and most popular modern dance repertories in the US that makes creative use of dance as a community outreach across the globe – especially in the developing worlds of Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America – to connect to rainbow communities over issues like addiction, conflicts, gender equality, dysfunctional families, empowering the marginalized and spreading of education through its award-winning "Dancing to Connect" program.

The company also choreographs compositions for dance festivals and stand-alone concerts around the world.

Like his "Dancing to Connect" global program, Hollander connects to India through his craft – and the link goes back a long way.

"I first visited India as a Fulbright lecturer in dance in 1992 and toured the country extensively," Hollander said. The rich dancing traditions of India led him to explore the sub-continent and then the rest of Asia.

"I have worked with Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi and Bollywood dancers," he said. The high points of his Indian collaborations are choreographies on social activism with danseuse Mallika Sarabhai’s Darpana company, "Purush" – a composition featuring 10 of India’s finest dancers – and "Songs of Tagore" with Samir and Sanghamitra Chattopadhyay.

"In 1997, I toured 17 cities in India with my troupe," Hollander said.

The choreographer has been a pioneer in introducing Indian dances to American audiences as the founder of the Downtown Dance Festival. In 1998, he founded the Indo-American Arts Council to promote exchanges in Indian and American performing cultures.

"The boundaries between different dances are breaking in India. India is waking up to the reality that dance can be a medium of education among younger human beings. Religious ethics and social divides evaporate… It isn’t hard to get your foot on the door to creativity," Hollander said.

Hollander said US dance is on a regressionary course despite the fact that "it is still 20 years ahead of India in styles, innovations and intent. There has been no resurgence unlike in India, where dance is opening up," he said.

The choreographer said he wants to bring his "Dancing to Connect" program to India – one of the few countries where he has not conducted his creative community dance workshop.


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