2001 India Overview (plus Delhi)

Delhi, India
April 2001

Battery Dance Company worked and performed here in 2001.

2001 India Tour

  • 6 cities: Calcutta, Bangalore, Madras, Bombay, Ahmedabad, New Delhi

  • 7 Dancers, 3 musicians, 2 technicians, Jonathan Hollander and Aroon Shivdasani (IAAC Executive Director)


  • April 2001

    Program Activities

  • 9 performances including 1 gala benefit in Calcutta

  • 6 Town Meetings with representatives of the press and cultural community (joint Battery Dance Company and Indo-American Arts Council initiative)

    Sponsors confirmed to date

  • Oberoi Hotels (housing & meals in 5 cities)

  • Taj Hotel (housing & meals in Ahmedabad)

  • Indian Airlines (domestic travel for 12 of the Company members)

  • Air-India (2 roundtrip international tickets on a complimentary basis and ½ price group discount on the others)

  • Mazaa Media (Event coordination in Bombay)

  • Ogilvy India (P.R. & marketing for all performances except Ahmedabad)

  • 2001 India Tour Overview

    How does a big international tour come together? Often, there is one person or one institution proffering one invitation that evolves into something much bigger. What it takes to build the tour from these exciting but modest beginnings depends on so many factors. Most dance companies are not in the category of fame and fortune such that offers routinely come in from international sponsors that include financially viable arrangements. More often, companies have to meet their international hosts half-way, by agreeing to cheap (camping?) accommodations, travel subsidies, corporate or foundation grants and individual donations (often from the artistic director’s pocket.) Before entering into one of these jig-saw puzzle arrangements, it is critical to assess the rationales for the tour and determine whether there are compelling reasons to go ahead. Clearly look at the possibility that a whopping deficit will greet you upon your return home.
    Taking Battery Dance Company’s 2001 India Tour as a case study, several rationales came together, promoting the concept of building yet another national tour of India:

    1) Artistic/program
    Jonathan Hollander created a piece in 1998 called “Layapriya” which provided him with the opportunity to grapple with the complexity of Indian rhythmic structures while staying true to his Western roots. The score for “Layapriya” (Sanskrit for ‘one who loves rhythm’) – had been composed by Eero Hämeenniemi on commission by the Helsinki Philharmonic. The 30 minute work drew on the forces of the full orchestra with 5 soloists, percussionists from Delhi- and In addition, Karaikudi Mani, one of India’s most celebrated percussionists, and his ensemble from Chennai as soloists in the concerto-type of form, also giving the Indian musicians freedom to improvise as Western musicians do in cadenzas. The score was brilliant and had received a 20 minute ovation at its one and only live performance at the Helsinki Philharmonic Hall – and luckily for BDC, the Finnish radio had recorded it – but because of the difficulty of bringing such disparate forces together, the piece was unlikely ever to be performed again. Response to the work in New York and in cities around the U.S. and Europe had been very strong, particularly among Indo-American audiences and institutions – and word had reached India, rendering interest high.

    CHRISTINE CORREA and FRANK CARLBERG – Another strong link with India and a compelling reason for Indian presenters to latch on to Battery Dance Company was our collaboration with the Finnish composer/pianist Frank Carlberg and his wife, the Mumbai-born Goanese jazz vocalist, Christine Correa. Christine had not toured India extensively since having made a name for herself in the U.S. Mother Goose was Battery Dance Company's latest collaboration with Frank and Christine – Frank had composed the score for the company in 2000 and it had been well reviewed in the New York Times. Touring India with a live musical ensemble (which also included percussionist Michael Sarin) was a coup given the Indian tradition regarding the inextricable partnership between music and dance. Thus BDC had two items in their repertoire with special appeal to the Indian audience.

    2) Personnel

    These were the years that the Martha Graham Dance Company was on furlough, with the rights to Graham’s works held up in a legal battle. Battery Dance Company had become a home for some of the terrific Graham dancers – Tadej Brdnik, Ariel Bonilla, Maurizio Nardi, Kevin Predmore, Virginie Mecene and Naiyu Kuo. Coupled with Mariella Rietschel from the Royal Swedish Ballet and Adrianna Thompson, a long-time Battery Dance Company member, and BDC’s long-time production designer Barry Steele, BDC had an all-star cast for the India Tour. With such a team, it was hard for Jonathan to consider cancelling when signs pointed to a financial loss. Whether this was a mistake or whether it was the “cost of doing business” was a moot question at this stage.

    3) Cross-cultural Synergies

    A few years earlier, Hollander had suggested the formation of an arts council in New York to celebrate and promote the artists and arts of India. The Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) was formed and he became an officer of the Board, with Aroon Shivdasani , his co-founder, as President and Executive Director. Aroon and Jonathan felt it was time to introduce the IAAC to the arts community in India and she agreed to accompany BDC on its tour of the 6 largest cities of India and to co-host town hall meetings with cultural leaders in each. BDC invited a prominent local cultural leader (ie. a university vice-chancellor; the head of a national arts foundation; an actor – head of a public relations firm) as convenors and invested in them the responsibility for assembling a list of 100 representatives of the arts community to attend. The conversations were provocative and productive, each side (U.S./India) sharing its frustrations and challenges. The company hoped that by being an outside catalyst, they might inspire greater cooperation within each city’s arts community as well as demystifying perceptions of the American landscape and breeding trust and on-going communication. In retrospect, the company felt they should have done more to lay the pathway for follow-on activities; though the IAAC has done a credible job of improving the cultural traffic between the two countries over the decade since.

    4) Humanitarian Concerns

    In January, 2001, the Northwestern Indian State of Gujarat was hit by a devastating earthquake with tremendous loss of life and destroying over 600,000 homes. The tour could easily have been cancelled, coming only 3 months later. But instead, the BDC team agreed that it was important to show solidarity with the Indian people. The Company felt it would show respect and concern for them to carry on – most notably – with their performance in Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat.

    5) Sponsorships -- the good, the bad and the good

    BDC director, Jonathan Hollander had managed, once again, to get major sponsorship's in place that covered one-half of the entire project budget: international and domestic airfare, hotel accommodations and half sponsorship of meals; and media relations support were all donated by Air-India, Indian Airlines, Oberoi Hotels and Ogilvy India respectively. The company also received grants from the Ford Foundation, Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust and several other Indian and American foundations, corporations and individuals that covered payroll, insurance and so forth. There was supposed to have been money coming in from each performance on the tour that would help BDC cover local expenses of the 4 weeks+ tour. Unfortunately, these local sponsorship's evaporated during the course of the tour. There was a meeting at the very glamorous Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai that Jonathan will never forget. Things had gotten so bad that BDC were close to cancelling their performances at the Homi Bhabha Auditorium because of the loss of sponsorship's that were to have covered the theater rental. Unbelievably, a young man, Imam Siddique, a friend of the arts but definitely no wealthy heir, jumped in to help the company. At the town hall meeting with leading cultural figures in Mumbai, Jonathan confided to the actress Lillete Dubey and Imam, while they were on a break, that he was broke and the Company might have to abandon its performances. They were shocked and Imam sprang into action: he called the room to attention and put out a plea for donations – of cash and of “things” including a grand piano (which the late Niranjan Jhaveri, prime mover of the Jazz Yatra Festival in Mumbai, donated.) Gerson Da Cunha, who had graciously agreed to convene the Town Hall Meeting, took over the role of auctioneer – auctioning off a performance by Battery Dance Company – and nearly everyone in the room pledged something. Imam appeared later that day and offered to collect all the funds – which he did over the course of the next 24 hours, presenting Jonathan with a packet that covered the rental of the theater. As a result, the performance was salvaged and BDC were able to continue the tour without other major mishaps.