Reflecting on my earliest memories of performances and performances unique to the community, I believe provide different perspectives to look at performance spaces. I researched the performances of Dhunuchi Dance and Dhakis, which I chose mainly because my earliest memory took me to my first performance on Durga Puja. Staying in Kolkata for almost five years helped me develop an understanding of the culture and the community there. I have witnessed the live performances of both the performances I have described.
Researching the chosen performances was far more insightful. I was introduced to the cultural importance of the dance, which is performed by the devotees to please Goddess Durga. Besides the Dhunuchi dancers, the Dhakis also form an integral part of the performance by providing rhythmic beats on their respective dhaks (drums). They create a rhythmic aura, and hence a jugalbandi (two art forms being tied together) takes place. I can understand that jugalbandi today because I am a dancer. Recollecting these performances in the present day, I was able to relate to the coordination of the two performances in terms of beats being produced by one and the movements and steps being performed in response to those beats.
The Dhakis too hold a major ancestral heritage wherein the art is transferred in a family generation after generation. The research furthered my understanding of the crisis the performers have had to face in the present-day scenario of the pandemic. The gatherings have been put on hold as per the covid-19 protocols, which include any event that these performers could be invited to for performing. Already being a type of occasional performance, the pandemic has further led to its decline.
I think it becomes important to understand the type of space one is performing in. The type of performance space is permanent or is it being constructed for occasional performances like festivities. If no performance is taking place, does the place designed feels like an abandoned area, or can it have multiple uses? I also feel that if the space is open to the public or whether the audience number is controlled also plays a major role in both the place of performance and how a performer is connecting with the audience during the performance.
I also feel that the reflections of performances are based on a single type of performance. To design a place of performance, it becomes important to cover diverse performances, and the type of performers and audiences it is incorporating. I think that the elements I will want to incorporate in my design will be depending a lot on these criteria. Even the area program will depend on the same. But what I do want to make sure of is that the space is made interesting using elements of vegetation and creating a hide-and-seek space to introduce playfulness to the site. The idea is to make sure that even in case of occasional performances, or no performances, the place doesn’t lose its identity as a public space, as the site that I have selected has now.
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