STEM Dance Kampani
28/07/2007 - 28/07/2007
Director/ Choreographer: Madhu Nataraj
Beautiful motifs of traditional Indian dance collide with experiments in rhythm, design and original music, flowing together to form STEM Dance Kampani’s world famous signature style.
STEM (Space Time Energy Movement) began in 1995, to explore and create new expressions in dance. Today, it has emerged as one of India’s leading contemporary Indian dance companies, recognized for its lyrical and dynamic performances both in India and abroad.
STEM ‘s Founder- Director/ Choreographer, Madhu Nataraj believes that, “dance needs to move away from the shackles of rigidity to become more meaningful”, so STEM strives to create a dance vocabulary which explores the limitless possibilities of the human form.
Madhu Nataraj studied Kathak (a traditional Indian dance form with strong theatrical roots) from her mother, internationally acclaimed Kathak dancer/choreographer Guru Maya Rao, and from Smt. Chitra Venugopal and Guru Munna Shukla.
Madhu graduated with distinction from the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography and has done her post graduation in Journalism. She was initiated into Contemporary Dance by Betty Jones, Sara Pearson, Karen Potter, Jose Limon centre and trained in New York. Madhu believes that tradition and modernity need to co exist and that reflects in her Dance ideology.
Dance , Contemporary dance , Solo ,
Needs to delve much deeper
Review by Jan Bolwell 29th Jul 2007
The performance by STEM Dance Kampani from Bangalore is a rare happening for New Zealand. While we have become accustomed to the fine artistry of Vivek Kinra’s Bharata Natyam concerts and to Bollywood dancing in the annual Divali Festival, Indian contemporary dance is an unknown entity.
STEM (Space Time Energy Movement) was formed in 1995 by director/ choreographer Madhu Nataraj, a graduate of the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography. The press release tells us that STEM is one of India’s leading contemporary dance companies and has performed extensively in India and abroad.
It is immediately evident that the six dancers’ main movement training is in traditional Indian rather than contemporary dance styles. There is a lack of mobility in the torso, and the dancers never look entirely balanced when attempting contemporary dance movements. The most successful works on the two-hour programme are those that relate most closely to Kathak and to Indian martial arts.
With no written programme, a middle aged Indian woman, self-described as "a garrulous old biddy", introduces each work. The overlong introductions and shameless eulogising over each work make for a fractured evening of dance. The information we required could have been supplied in three or four well worded paragraphs on a piece of A4 paper.
The acronym STEM references Madhu Nataraj’s American dance training. One of her teachers, Sara Pearson worked with dance veteran Murray Louis whose whole approach was based upon the abstract movement concepts of space, time, and energy. In the hands of Nataraj these concepts become somewhat didactic and formulaic. The use of choreographic structures and devices is rudimentary and crudely put together.
One feels this is a choreographer just at the beginning of a working process. In order for a successful fusion of traditional Indian and western contemporary dance forms to be effectively realised, she needs to delve much deeper.
The choreography and performance is not helped by often irrelevant and overuse of projections and an appalling lighting design.
Having made these criticisms I am still pleased to have seen STEM Kampani and I acknowledge the courage and commitment it takes to attempt the fusion of disparate dance traditions. For the almost exclusively Indian audience it provided a stimulating and possibly provocative insight into one aspect of dance in present day India.
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