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TILOTTAMA BOSE

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 4/15/2017 |




Songsoptok
TALKING WITH TILOTTAMA
 DANCE: THE RHYTHM OF LIFE

SONGSOPTOK: How and why did you choose dancing as a career?  What specific things would you like for people to know about your chosen career?

TILOTTAMA:  Dancing is my passion and not a career option. My organization, Kalyanni, is a non-profit one, where amateur dancers with already established professions, dance to give back – supporting charities and community events. Kalyanni operates as a professional organization, where dancers are taught and trained for free, collaborate on an open creative platform and perform for free.


SONGSOPTOK: What advice would you offer to someone just new to this field?

TILOTTAMA:  Any creative endeavor is fueled by passion and dedication. In the initial phases, the rewards of dancing are more intrinsic and less financial. Creative and financial rewards in this field require patience, and continual networking. Its best to expand one’s repertoire by being a lifelong learner and collaborator.


SONGSOPTOK: What are some of the common errors or misconceptions people have about dance as a career choice?

TILOTTAMA: When I was growing up, my mother tried to sign me up for singing lessons, in addition to my lessons in Bharatnatyam. By some quirk of fate, my singing lessons never quite got off the ground. She used to say, that singing has a longer shelf life than dancing – well, she did not use those exact term but that’s what her concerns boiled down to. That, and the fact that in a social gathering, its easier to sing than dance, made her often lament the fact that I cannot sing.  Other misconceptions regarding dance as a profession are mostly centered around financial stability. Many think that in professional dancing, the retirement age arrives much sooner than other careers due to physical limitations caused by age or ailments. As a career then, it limits income potential. Secondly, like most other artistic ventures, the financial rewards are rather limited unless one becomes one of the very few who gain fame.


SONGSOPTOK: How would you describe your typical work week?

TILOTTAMA: The beauty of artistic pursuits, is that there is no “typical” week. As a dancer and the owner/creative director of Kalyanni, my work schedule for the organization is mostly divided between developing creative content, choreographing and rehearsing.  


SONGSOPTOK: How many hours do you set aside for your own practice, stage show rehearsals, choreography and costume selection?

TILOTTAMA: An upcoming show requires at least 14 hours of my commitment per week, where 6-8 hours are just for group rehearsals. During the few months when we are not preparing for shows, Kalyanni dedicates three hours a week to collaborate, in addition to the personal practice time. I schedule my own practice a few times a week. Choreography, of course evolves as a response to group energy and conversations – a process which I most enjoy.


SONGSOPTOK: Is there anything you strongly like or dislike about your dance career?

TILOTTAMA: The fact that dancing as career, would translate to making a living off what I love to do most, was always a strong motivating factor. One of the reasons I did not choose dance as a career, is because as a single mother, I needed a stable paycheck and health insurance. Financially, it was not a viable option. I wish artists and teachers could be compensated as well as other professionals to make a decent income. The uncertainty and instability are two things which are most unfortunate in the life of an artist.


SONGSOPTOK: Should there be any age limit for beginners in dance? If you have adult students, can you tell us what they expect to gain from their lessons?

TILOTTAMA:  I do not believe that age has anything to do with dancing. I have mostly adult students, some of whom were completely new to the structure of classical dance or to movement study. They have made good progress, fueled by their desire to learn. More than age, it’s the physical and mental limitations that need to be overcome. What they expect is to have the tools to give expression to their creativity through the medium of dance – something which continued physical conditioning and an open, free flowing mind can accomplish.


SONGSOPTOK: Dance has the ability to offer its participants and spectators a religious experience. Do you agree? If so tell us how and why? What do you think about antagonism to dance in some religions?

TILOTTAMA:  Given that I have been trained in the tradition of Indian classical dancing, I cannot separate dancing and the Divine. Dance is an expression of my innermost emotions –   spirituality being one such. Any creative expression comes from a place deep within us – if a connection to the Divine is present in an artist, it will shine through as a Prayer. Like love or fear or hate, strong emotions always seek an outlet – be it in a painting, or a song, or a poem or a dance. But dance is a physical expression – where the body is used to convey such strong emotions. Perhaps certain religious leaders are uncomfortable with such expressions – they may regard the passion that flows from dancing bodies as immodest.


SONGSOPTOK: Do you agree that a dancer can convey intangible emotional experiences as strongly as verbal communications? Do you agree/disagree that dance can lead to altered states of consciousness?

TILOTTAMA:  Dance is emotional energy flowing through one’s body connecting the heart, the mind, the soul. Its energy transcends all boundaries, drawing in everything around it to the core of one’s consciousness. It ties us to a Universal energy. The dancer can only dance if his or her state of consciousness is altered, is fluid and breaks all limits. From Lord Shiva’s Tandav to Lord Krishnas Ras Leela, every emotions beats to an inner rhythm tied to a Universal One. That experience can only exist in altered states of consciousness. A dancer immersed in the dance, is able to experience every emotion viscerally within herself.
 

SONGSOPTOK: Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration. (Rudolf Nureyev) Do you agree with this quote?  

TILOTTAMA:  I have not seen any Nureyev performance where the inspiration was not almost tangible in his techniques – the leaps, the extensions or the pirouettes. He always sought the “impossible” in his techniques, which cannot but stem from inspiration. Perhaps that’s what the purist in him meant – technique as opposed to inspiration without the tools? Technique and grammar are mere, albeit useful and necessary, tools – if the physical movements are meant only to impress an uninitiated audience, these tools are sufficient. But a dance that moves the audience is one that is inspired.

TILOTTAMA BOSE is a dancer by passion. It all started when she was three years old and her mother ambitiously draped a saree around her during some neighborhood cultural event. She spontaneously did an extempore performance of a Tagore song – “Poush toder daak diyechey….” was lauded for it, and was gently brought down from the stage. The saree was later found among the props and handed over to my mother. So the story goes.

She was trained in Bharatnatyam and have a diploma which validates that claim – though her love for dancing has more to do with  her Guru Nilima Devi, than her annual dance examinations. Additionally, she has participated in workshops in contemporary dancing.  She simply love dancing – its her life breath and the core expression of every emotion she has.   People have been gracious and generous with their compliments– She hopes she is truly deserving of such praise. . But even if she didn’t dance “well” enough, she would still dance.  Such is the call of the rhythm of life.

She is also a mother of two and a high school history teacher. Also she is the founder of Kalyanni – a non-profit dance company, mainly performing for fundraising and community events. They provide free training and a platform for all those who want to dance.  

***THE INTERVIEW WAS TAKEN BY RIMI PATI

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.

 (Songsoptok)

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