This is a jumble of ideas and explorations that sprang from my engagement in [CP]3.
It is a collection of notes that does not necessarily cohere into one neat package, but instead lays out a number of threads of enquiry that can be revisited and developed.
I share images, videos, sketches, and bits of writing that speak to my process of absorbing, exchanging, and assimilating information that mentors and peers have shared with generosity and gentle self-reflexivity.
I welcome you to browse the workbook in whatever order you like, to reflect, and play with me.
One day I was free-flow improvising on my terrace when a man interrupted me. “Is this some dance practice?” he asked. “Er—yes,” I responded, halting abruptly. “What form?” he said. I wanted to tell him to go away. “No form—just improvising,” I said.
About a month ago I walked slowly along the promenade by the beach in Pondicherry. I went very slowly; I wanted to do something everyone does, but in a slightly different way. I also wanted people to read (and even decipher) what was on my T-shirt:
I had decided that this was a public performance. No one approached me that day.
Excerpts from a memory
I was wondering how to trace the history of my dancing when I decided not to go down the route of drawing a timeline and listing instances of various dance classes and performance spaces. In fact, I decided to shelve the question. Then, one delightfully cloudy morning, as I pranced around on my terrace, I was struck by a realisation: there I was, journalling in dance.
I was not creating a phrase for a class or in response to a task; I was just letting the pulse inside me emerge in a string of improvised movement, much like the words spill out of me when I write in my journal. It seemed, I noted in surprise, that I had not one, but two languages in which to live. (It was no coincidence that at the time, I was reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words, or that just a couple of weeks previously, Padmini Chettur had asked the whole group in our certificate programme to think about writing a local or personal dance history.)
For years I had felt compelled to choose an identity: writer or dancer? academic or practitioner? But now I was excited by the possibility of multitudes. What if I let go of allegiance to one medium? Forget how that impacts my “image” as an artist. I just thought it might be fun to play. And then I wrote a piece.
Writing a linear dance history would’ve meant craning my neck to see the dance in my past. Doing it this way instead allowed me to find it in unexpected places.
What is my artistic practice?
I’ve begun to wonder if it’s a tree—something that keeps growing. The “fruits” of its labour aren’t the main focus; they simply fall by the side when they are fresh and ripe, or else when they are stale and no longer needed. But then I wonder if it’s also a rhizome. Space, time, and consciousness all extend infinitely, and ideas germinate anywhere they can.
Growth is non-linear and connections keep forming and un-forming across nodes and planes. In both models, I realise, I cannot take credit for all the growth.
I read somewhere that to exist is to coexist, because we are always in relation to each other and to the other-than-human lives around us. I keep imagining that I’m feeding myself, growing because of my own efforts, but then I laugh with a friend, see my little niece smile, or play with a dog, and I know it’s foolish of me to think that those swells in my heart come from my singular determination to be self-sufficient.
Practising means taking an idea and greeting it several times over. But really, practice is not one limp, static thing, waiting unchanged for my attention. So can I allow myself to be greeted by it also?
Sometimes I want to dance but I don’t know where to begin. I just know that I want to experience the thick presence of the physical world; it’s not enough to watch videos online or order cake. I need a full-bodied, spirited aesthetic experience, not to get the creative juices flowing and boost productivity, but to remember the insides—the inner lining of the organs, the network of nerves, the channels of blood, the density of the bones, the continuous sheet of muscle…
Perhaps what I look for is actually the antithesis of productivity. I don’t want to produce or manufacture—at least not right away. Also, playing is fun. Play with sitting and mapping yourself in your room.
Starts and stops
Whatever you’re doing—cooking, cleaning, playing your guitar—pause. Are you still breathing? Are you still interested in what you’re doing? Resume the activity. Do you feel different? Do you want to continue the same way as before, or do you want to change something about the way you’re doing it? Does stopping and starting redefine the activity?
Anishaa Tavag is a dancer, writer, and Alexander Technique teacher trainee based in Bangalore. She holds an MA in Arts and Aesthetics from Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), and was a resident at the Gati Summer Dance Residency (2016). Her writing has been published in the Indent journal and The Hindu. In 2016, she co-created ‘Azadi’, a commemoration of the student movement in India. In 2020, she premiered a short dance film, ‘The Length of a Sneeze’, at Attakkalari. As a facilitator for adults and children, she investigates individual reflection and collective responsibility. Anishaa is one of four co-founders of 206 Dance Collective, Bangalore.