For our roundtable, we would like to show our short interview-film titled “And Yet We Are Together”.
In this film, Astad Deboo - a renowned and innovative dancer-choreographer from India who combines Kathak, Kathakali, and Contemporary Dance is interviewed by Sai Bhatawadekar, Director of the Center for South Asian Studies at University of Hawaii and a dancer-choreographer herself. Deboo and three of his dancers - Shamsul, Govind Godiyal, and Pradeep Kumar - talk about their new project - Boundaries - dedicated to migrant workers feeling cornered and yet breaking away with hope and determination. The project and interview also reveal how they reinvent dance pedagogy and performance during COVID lock-downs, how they reimagine household corners as stage, use editing to bring isolated performers in synch and formations, and choose slow, minimal movement to bring contemplative calm to the world of fast-paced music videos. Sai Bhatawadekar's interview and editing choices aim to be decolonial and non-elitist, letting voices be heard in their own language and bodies seen in their earnest expression, sharing credit, creativity, and inspiration. The film is meant to emphasize that even beyond pan(aca)demic troubles, education is not simply about content delivery or skill building, not a unidirectional flow of know-how from expert to novice or a purely cerebral severity. Education is effective when students and teachers connect with one another as individuals, when we invest our bodies and emotions, go together on cross-cultural quests, ignite sparks of self-discovery and epiphanies. And it is truly transformational when we allow madness to our method and let our convictions and creativity fly, when we build caring relationships and learn with passion, humor, empathy, and activism. A mindful combination of creativity and care is what is going to bring hope to our crises, warmth to technology, and togetherness to our isolation.
This film is now an even more precious document: Astad Deboo unexpectedly died in October 2020, which makes this his last piece of work. This will be an homage to him and his constant innovation. As the format of this film is already a roundtable/ interview, the conference participants will get to see and hear him and his students in discussion. The interviewer, Dr. Sai Bhatawadekar, will be available at the conference for the Q&A.