Innovation as Tradition

Nancy Boissel-Cormier, French ballet and contemporary dancer, started the practice of bharata-nāṭyam under Kalaimamani Kuttalam M.Selvam in 2003 in Chennai.

Recognised as a “traditional” Indian dance, bharata-nāṭyam is also described as “modern” by researchers as a re-invention of the “tradition” in the 30s.

During her practice, Nancy Boissel-Cormier met Indian contemporary dancers in India, who rejected the bharata-nāṭyam and developed their own contemporary language. From their discussions and collaborations raised questions about the sadir heritage. Which elements have been kept, in which context and why? Is innovation possible inside the form itself? Some dancers like Priya Darshini Govind, Sangeeta Isvaran or Malavika Sarukai are making choreographies within the bharata-nāṭyam form; on the contrary, Chandralekha followed by Pdmini Chettur and Preethi Athreya are exploring an other contemporary language from an Indian material.

Nancy Boissel-Cormier did a Master in Theater and dance at Paris 8 University in Paris, where she questioned the heritage of the tradition in the style taught by her dance Master, Kalaimamani Kuttalam M. Selvam, who is from a naṭuvāṉār family.

The lecture demonstration presents the collaboration with this dance Master in Chennai through 3 items choreographed for Nancy by her dance Master:

  • an allaripu, which shows the possibilities to innovate inside a “traditional” frame: rhythmic improvisation with the mnemonic syllabus;
  • veṇkalac cilai, a piece choreographed from a text written by the sculptor Auguste Rodin for Rodin Museum in Paris, and part of International Symposium in French studies and francophone travels , discoveries, encounters. Privileged area. Indian Ocean. Centre for French and Francophone Studies, Jaaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 23 au 26 February 2011.
  • A choreography on the very popular poem Boh Shamboh which shows the different possibilities of innovation of movements for each dancer.

Nancy Boissel-Cormier
Docteur en esthétique, sciences et technologies des Arts, spécialité théâtre et danse.
Laboratoire EA 1573 Scènes du monde, création, savoirs critiques.