Participants Reflections on Master Class 2012
Compiled by Manola Gayatri
The Master Class at Kalakshetra Manipur (KKM) has been an invitation to a way of life. The impressive 40 years of theatre making, living, struggling and creating works of art under conditions that have been economically, politically and personally stressful have made the legacy of Kalakshetra Manipur a powerfully inspiring one.
While some had experienced a part of this power as witness of Kalakshetra Manipur productions in Culcutta, Delhi and other places and through scholarship, the experience of living and experiencing the process of theatre making has given us a keener appreciation of the technique, challenged some of our own ways of doing and thinking, reaffirmed our beliefs in the creative potentials of group work and has helped us find meeting points as human beings and artists coming from different personal locations and sensibilities.
Marie Gutierrez walking into the yard of Kalakshetra Manipur immediately felt that she was home with Ima Sabitri on the porch and Oja Kanhailal there. This feeling has only deepened for her and the rest of us as we have seen the way relationships, work, food, rest and artistic practice organically weaved the group into a community that began to feel very much at home with each other, their own selves and the environment.
The invitation to young scholars to observe and be part of the process was deeply appreciated for the attention to detail and in depth understanding that such a vantage point allowed. The KKM training technique developed in the 1980s in one that Manola Gayatri, coming with many injuries from previous trainings, found particularly impressive for its deep gentleness with the body especially combined with sensitivity to the rhythms of the group and its needs.
The awareness of inner body processes and the control of form externally is in trainer Tyson’s words responding to a question by Marie because of a deep concentration through breathing. Rest as part of the natural rhythm was an experience that some of the participants used to the bustle of city life found unable to immediately get accustomed to. For Ojas, initially restless during this time of ‘not doing’, the space then opening up for reflection, thought was a particularly novel way at appreciating the time for rest.
An introduction to the Grotowski techniques through Marie Gutierrez one evening, following a watching for the deeply disturbing Draupadi and Pebet the previous nights, let to a discussion about the two techniques. The commonality of the attention given to breath and spine work was apparent. Yet Grotowski technique seemed to stay much more focused to the inner impulses while the Kalakshetra Manipur technique was also focused on form. The political conditions of Manipur that shape this deep commitment for the theatre to be socially relevant became apparent in this discussion, giving many of us insights into the role of an artist in society in different contexts and responding to different needs.
Musician and actor Gregori Baquet, who found some of the exercises a part of established theatre convention, was most haunted and deeply moved by the deep musicality in the Kalakshetra Manipur dramatic. Interested in European gypsy music, he found the folk songs deeply connecting to these rhythms. Following an intense session of singing with Ima Sabitri, the song and Ima Sabitri was the heart of this experience for him. Later in the workshop Oja Tomba’s deeply powerful voice sessions after the initial voice work had been done began to deepen the sound produced into sonorous energy and haunting musicality.
For contemporary dancer Nongmeikapam Surjit (Bonbon), used to improvisation that sought material through an exploration of movement this exploration of the imagination for materials was particularly unique. The acting session in the evening led through improvisations that sought images from an inner world led to formations of archetypal symbols and playing out of dynamics that all of us found in different ways troubling, healing, inspiring and deeply magical. Sessions like this were followed by a resonating silence that none of us wished to break.
Usham Rojio, another Research Scholar at Theatre and Performance Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi deeply senses the importance of associating with the scholar in such a theatre workshop. He feels the acting methodology of KKM is derived from various Meitei performing arts taking the very essence and not merely imitating the form. One needs a scholarly attention on such methodology.
As we make our way back the different worlds that we come from, we deeply enriched to have accepted the invitation of the Kalakshetra Manipur way of life and will carry back this world as part of our own inner worlds.