New Delhi: Poet Rabindranath Tagore, who was often derided as “elitist” by a section of ultra-Left intellectuals during his time, is bridging the class divide in a new way — thanks to eight dancers of the Astad Deboo Dance Company who began their lives as street children in the capital’s alleys.
The Nobel laureate has not only been a breathing dream for them in the last few months, but also a window to sustainable livelihood as stage performers. The boys are contemporary dance maestro Astad Deboo’s star performers in a choreography, Interpreting Tagore.
The contemporary dance-puppet theatre combining dance, recitation, puppet shows, masks and opera music is designed around three of his poems, Ekla Chalo Re, Your Grace and Every Fragment of Dust is Awakened.
The dance theatre was staged at the Kamani auditorium in the national capital on Monday in the last leg of the bard’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations which close May 7.
“The boys belonged to the Salaam Balak Trust, but they are members of my dance company. I had earlier worked with 14 of these street children in a production, ‘Breaking Boundaries’, to showcase their talent and prove that given an opportunity they can rise to the occasion,” Deboo told IANS.
The production premiered last year when the nation began to celebrate Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, the maestro said. “I decided to use eight of the 14 boys in the dance theatre interpreting Tagore through layers of poetry and songs translated by Aruna Roy,” he said.
Carrying Tagore across the cerebral divide was not easy, he said. “I sat with them and explained what each dance and corresponding poetry was all about. They tried to understand the dance. They know Tagore was a poet but as the translations were in English, language was a barrier. The boys had joined my dance company in 2008 and in three years, they were familiar with my genre of dance,” Deboo said.
Voiceover artist Akash Khurana, a popular television actor, who recites poetry at the production, describes the dance theatre and its social implications as “progression”.