Isolated Questions: An Interview with Nova Bhattacharya: Choreographer/Dancer for Ipsita Nova Dance Projects

… on her upcoming premiere of Isolated Incidents

May 13-15 at 8pm

at the Enwave Theatre

Regular Ticket: $28

Student/Senior/CADA/Arts Worker Ticket: $18 or (416) 973-4000

Interview by Lucy Rupert

Lucy: What inspired you to create this program of dances? Who is this woman we follow?

Nova: A lot of my work has been about movement vocabulary and trying to bring the abhinaya (mimetic, storytelling, expressional) element of bharatanatyam into a more abstract realm. I kept working in an abstract, non-narrative format, but I kept feeling like I was creating characters. And one of them was a woman I wanted to follow. I don’t really know who she is yet. She is strong, vulnerable, thoughtful, mature and playful.

I admit I have a vested interest in learning about other artists who primarily do solo work: how did you come to the point of focusing on solos – why do you work in this form?

Coming from the world of classical bharatanatyam, trained primarily as a soloist, it was perhaps inevitable that my journey into contemporary expression would follow the same route. In my desire to bring my dance technique into a contemporary aesthetic I sought out choreographers who were themselves creators and performers of solos (Peggy Baker and Jose Navas, for example). My thinking was that since we would be working between techniques it would be important to have a common ground, and that a focus on solo work would provide this.

I am inspired by the incredible challenges that the creation and execution of solo work provides. From the moment of inception to performance on stage, the solo artist must be able to sustain. Sustain: a creation process that can be terrifyingly lonely; and sustain one’s vision while embracing feedback and input from collaborators. The work carries with it certain specific responsibilities to structure, content and performance. Its composition, pacing and core material should take into consideration what it offers to the viewer. If the truth of intention is maintained, the impact is: potent, poetic and transformative for dancer and audience alike.

By the way: I’ve also worked a lot with duets, and I have yearnings to create more group works as well!

Do you relate the term “fusion” to your work?

I tend to find that the word “fusion” isn’t the right one for my work. My work is not about a fusion of forms, but rather I try to find ways to bring my classical training into a contemporary aesthetic. Over the last ten years I have immersed myself in contemporary art. Making choreography has been about: aesthetics, concepts and movement principles – rather than a physical fusion with another technique. I approach it as honestly and with as much integrity as I can.

What has your process been like with each of your collaborators on Isolated Incidents?

So far, I have worked with: Ed Hanley as my composer; Sasha Ivanochko as my outside eye; and Caroline O’Brien on costumes. Ed and I have created work together for the last ten years. In between, he has worked with other choreographers; I have worked with other composers, so when we return to work with each other we both bring new information to the process.

Our journeys are similar in that we both studied art forms that originated in India – here in Canada. We know each other really well, and this process has had some wonderful moments.

Sasha has been coming into my process intermittently during the last year. She encourages, challenges and pushes me deeper into the work, and helps keep me on track when I meander from the work’s purpose.

Caroline made costumes for both of the Peggy Baker pieces in my repertoire, but this is the first time we are working on one of my own creations. It’s been great, she has so much expertise and is also open to my off-the-wall ideas. Marc Parent, my lighting designer, arrives today (as I write this), and I’m sure he will make magic in the theatre.

What do you see in the future of dance in Toronto?

I think Toronto is an absolute hotbed of creativity, with people working in a multiplicity of forms and aesthetics. Things are percolating, simmering, boiling over and reducing down to a powerful concentrate. I’m not a fortune-teller; I can only say that I hope that art will continue to prevail against the challenges it often faces.

What do you dream for your company, Ipsita Nova Dance Projects?

To make good work, to work with good people, to persevere …

One final question: what is your favourite moment in Isolated Incidents?

Isolated Incidents is a premiere. As I write this, it’s seventeen days to the premiere, and I have just blown apart the structure and am sifting through the rubble to rebuild the work. A very exciting time, filled with discovery. In other words, I can’t possibly answer your question!


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