Dancing outside the body

French dancer's encounter with an Indian street beggar sparked interest in craft that he'll display at UCI this week.

October 22, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Dominique Delorne rehearses at the Ektaa Center in Irvine on Monday. "Dance Conversations 2013 -- Theaters in Dance," a symposium on Indian dance is slated for Saturday and Sunday at UC Irvine's Claire Trevor School of the Arts.
Dominique Delorne rehearses at the Ektaa Center in Irvine… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Moments after stepping foot in New Delhi, Dominique Delorme's gaze fell upon a man on the side of the road.

He had no arms or legs, and he entreated passersby to place money in a bowl placed in front of him. Their gazes locked, and a grin blossomed on the pauper's face. Immediately, gears started turning in the 19-year-old Frenchman's mind.

"I wondered what was inside that person that makes him smile at me, who comes from the West, who has a TV, computers and other things," he said. "I started thinking, 'What's beyond the body? What's beyond the material life?'"

Despite recently being disappointed by and dropping out of medical school, Delorme couldn't shake the feeling that his life was just about to start.

And, in a way, it did.

Deeply influenced by the people and kaleidoscope of cultures encountered during his travels, he returned to Paris and began training in Indian dance. A year later, the budding performer earned a scholarship to live and study in Chennai, a cultural, economic and educational hub in south India.


Three decades have passed, and now Delorme is a master of two classical dance styles — Bharatanatyam and Bharatanrityam — and he is rehearsing rigorously for his upcoming show at UC Irvine's Claire Trevor School of the Arts. He will join actor-director Maya Krishna Rao, Canadian choreographer Hari Krishnan and German dancer Johanna Devi for a performance at Winifred Smith Hall on Saturday.

This ticketed performance comes on the heels of day one at the school of "Dance Conversations: Theatres in Dance," co-convened by Ramya Harishankar and UC Riverside's Priya Srinivasan. The Irvine-based Ektaa Center, Arpana Dance Company and UC Irvine's departments of dance and drama are teaming up to host this first-ever two-day symposium, which has been a year in the making.

"We have been trying to do a number of things to be connected to the community, and one of those things is to be porous and open up to bring new and exciting ideas and people to the campus," said Joseph Lewis, dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts. "We are really excited because it's part of the school's mission to be a place where we create new knowledge, train people to create new knowledge, and provide access to and share that new knowledge."

Lewis is keen to look at lndian dance through a different lens and discover how traditions relate to contemporary, modern and postmodern thought. This, he remarked, is a great opportunity to better understand the art form.

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