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Express 2008

[on the] SPOT
By Arion Berger

Thursday, July 24, 2008;
Weekend Pass, Page 2


The D.C.-Based dance troupe is best known for its seamless and time-collapsing meld of modern with Indian classical dance (as well as Latin and social dancing), but on Saturday DDPS & Co. takes a leap into the void. The 9:30 Club hosts Dakshina and Washington Improv Theater for a performance of “Going Against the Flow: Improvised Lives,” the interactive, improvised highlight of a dance triple-bill. Singh calls it a ” modern-day cabaret” performance, but it required intense training and development of trust and technique among the dancers and actors — more triathlon than boa-and-mic. Expect to break it down with pros as the troupe lays out scenes that refer to the nightclub experience.

How are you working with WIT? 

We’ve been trying to explore how we can combine text and movement. It’s an interesting concept for us because the actors are more used to doing comedy improv, and they wanted to do more serious work. On the other hand, the dancers are used to doing serious work. We wanted the two pieces to come together as an integrated whole.

So what will it look like?
They’ll be improvising onstage and they’ll be speaking, making up narratives, based on what the dancers are doing.
How do you rehearse something that depends on so much improv?
We had to just learn how to trust each other and take risks together. …It’s fine-tuning your instinct — we have to be very aware and in the moment and be willing to go wherever we can.

How much of your training are you bringing in to this project?

My classical Indian dance training is in bharatanatyam — it has a wonderful openness and a structure. You’re usually expected to do stuff that is thematic or narrative in nature. It also has the abstract built into it — you are sometimes doing stuff just for spatial patterns or rhythms.

So it’s not the type of improv comedy uses that’s very specific. 
People often call something an abstraction that doesn’t have a clear narrative theme. But I like to ask, “This is a abstraction, but of what?” An abstraction starts with something — otherwise, it just becomes an exercise in intellect, rather than an art form.

What kind of staging challenges does a nightclub present?

We’re doing it in the round, so its is like a nightclub. People won’t feel like we’re onstage; they’ll feel like we’re dancing in the middle of it. We’re also going to get people in the audience to dance with us. We don’t want them to watch it, but to feel part of it. … That will also change our movements, so it’s a place where the improve might be helpful.

This is D.C. — you may get hipsters standing around with their arms folded.
Well, we’re not calling it a stage and not demarking it as a stage. Plus, it’s the 9:30 Club, so we’re hoping it will attract people interested in something kind of crazy.

–> 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; Sat., 8 p.m., $30, dakshina.tix.com; dakshina.org. (U St.-Cardozo)