Annual Worksession of The Arshinagar Project

The Naked Actor – First Annual Worksession of The Arshinagar Project

“How to be spiritually naked? How to not learn, but unlearn? We look inside and ask, ‘Amal, what do you want to see?’. The little boy is about to fall asleep. The post-man walks down from the mountain-top, past rivers and fields, past galaxies and nebulae, walks out of time, bearing the king’s letter. We sing, ‘the night the storm broke open all my doors/ i had not known it was you came to my room’.

“I can see the stars from the other shore of darkness”, says Amal…

It is a time of meeting. We meet the others, who have come to meet us, in a place of flowers and song. It is a meeting called ‘Amaler Khoje’ – In Search of Amal. ”

The Arshinagar Project​ announces it’s first annual worksession, The Naked Actor, to be held at Tepantar Theatre Village, the workbase of EBONG AMRA Theatre Group​, from August 22nd to 31st, 2015.

The workshop will be based on Sahrudaya, our approach to performance creation, which draws upon Indian performative source. It will be led by Arka Mukhopadhyay, founder of The Arshinagar Project, and Uttam Das Baul, who’s recognized as one of the finest among the younger generation of Baul musicians and Chandana Sarma, theater maker/choreographer, performer and movement facilitator.

A little more on the Sahrudaya approach and a brief description of what the day-to-day work will be like:

More about Sahrudaya:

Sahrudaya refers to a performer who is in a state of grace, resonant with her/ his interior awareness, with the co-creators and with the space. It is the performer who has the courage to be vulnerable, to be spiritually naked, and to meet other human beings with this vulnerability, without pretence.
The basis of the work is the simple, everyday act of breathing, but looked at as a bridge between the inner and the outer world, and the foundation of the rhythmic, awakened body, a body alive to its own creative potential. The work draws upon elements from Kalaripayattu, Butoh and other forms, but ultimately focuses on the human body, the organic being, as the source of creation. It challenges the body and the imagination, improving our focus, attention, precision and presence, opening up a rich, dynamic language of the body and voice, full of a deep, inner life.

The work includes:

Manobjomin ( The Ground of Being) : Uttam Dasbaul

1. Naada – the organic voice
2. Kirtan – chants
3. Songs from the Baul repertoire
4. Working with the ektaara

Sahrudaya (Way of the Open Heart) : Arka Mukhopadhyay

The Way of the Warrior – The Awakened Body:

1. Exercises of the breath, eye and face
2. Body conditioning and tuning through the ‘dynamics’, a set of exercises based on tension, opposition and symmetry, designed to give the performer a way of being in space with a heightened perception
3.Working on the unity of breath, gaze, movement and gesture
4. Awakening the rhythmic body through breathing and movement in space
How to be the River, the Wind – Impulse and Improvisation:

1. Working on improvisations both through spontaneity and structure; using contact, basic acrobatics and more
2. Opening up the organic voice by delving deep into the body and the sub-conscious
3. Experiencing the rasaas in our bodies through breath, rhythm and singing, finding expression
4. Finding intention, precision and flow through movement and song – finding connections with oneself, the partners and the space. 5. Working with text through breath, rhythm and images
6. Creating solo, duet and ensemble performance structures – towards a poetry of space

Au – Discovering the Alchemist’s Pot of Gold (or finding your true identity as a performer) : Chandana Sarma

Inspired from the underlying of idea of the pot of the Alchemist turning all into Gold (or your true identity), the session will focus on deconstruction of notions and movement patterns, questioning ones own neutral/zeroth or its myth. Followed by reconstruction of layers (additive or further reduced) to touch extreme polarities existing within us. Discover the many forces of creation, witness body changing forms in an alchemist’s pot.

The work includes:

1.The body work of this session will have its basis originating from the skeleton. Moving layers of body, extended body and space surrounding it.
2. We will be exploring neutral and extremities essentially in three aspects: physical, spatial and mental
3. The work will use exercises and inspirations from mutation of object and movement theatre.
Provisional Daily Schedule:

Every day, the work will begin with voice sessions with Uttam Das Baul, which will start from basic sound meditation and move on to songs from the Baul repertoire.
We will then learn the basic sequences of the southern style of Kalaripayattu, intended to give the performer a sense of being, and moving in space, in tune with the cardinal directions, and also to give him/ her a sense of grounding, stillness and inner silence
The next session will be on the ‘dynamics’, a set of exercises developed by us, which give the performer a kind of ‘alphabet’ of movement, for enhancing physical suppleness and stamina while at the same time heightening and focusing the attention.
The next session will be on breath, and its connection with the kinds and degrees of psycho-physical states (bhaavas). Through the breath, control of the eyes and the facial muscles will also be explored, as well as hand gestures as a channel of energy
We will then work on the voice, through specific exercises the integrate movement and voice, as well as improvisation
The next session will be with Chandana Sarma. With the skeletal structure as the starting point, the work will explore the energetic projection of the body in space. We will move between the ‘neutral’ and the ‘extreme’ states of the body-mind in its relation with space. The body, in its mutability, will become the site of poetry

The second half of the day will begin with work on the ektara, the traditional Baul instrument, with Uttam Das Baul. Each participant will be given an ektara which s/he can keep for further personal practice.
The next session will be on the rhythmic body in space – creating a harmony of movement with the ensemble through breath and rhythm.

Everyday in the evening, we will present improvisational performances for each other. These may be solo, duet or involve more people, and may last from five to twenty minutes. They will be an immediate, visceral response to the space, bringing together what we will be learning.

The last session of the evening will bring together the different strands of work, and focus it on an exploration of Tagore’s “The Post Office” (daakghar). We will work with fragments from this masterpiece (in English translation as well as the original), and create solo, duet and ensemble structures, through movement, song and text in response. Over the ten days, we will create a performance structure which we will share with the rural audience.

To get a sense of the work, please watch the following video:

Facilitator bio-s:

Uttam Das Baul, son of the living legend, Deb Das Baul, is one of the finest young torch-bearers of the Baul-Phokiri heritage. He has performed all over India and abroad, including France, South Korea and New Zealand

Chandana Sarma works with somatic practices, intent specific dance, body and movement research. Trained in kathak, bharatnatyam and western contemporary dance, she is now essentially researching newer vocabulary, meanings of movement and the art of performance. She works as theater maker/choreographer, performer and movement facilitator. She has been involved in working with improvisation, physical, visual and experimental theater in India and Europe. She has worked in collaboration with various artists across the world through residencies, productions, festivals, site specific researches and Alternative performances for the past 4 years.
She sees the potential of Art particularly the body and dance to be beyond aesthetic beauty. She passionately aims at spreading and sharing the knowledge, technique, tools of movement and improvisation practice, aid the joy of discovering ones own dance.

Arka Mukhopadhyay is a performer, director, teacher and poet. He is the founder of The Arshinagar Project and the initiator of the ‘Sahrudaya’ approach to performance.

Practical Information:

The work will take place at Tepantar Theatre Village, a beautiful residency in Satkahoniya, a village about an hour from Santiniketan, run by Ebong Amra, a theatre company comprising members from some of the most disenfranchised segments of society. It features twin-sharing, quad-sharing and dorm style accommodation with all modern facilities, a simple wood-fired earthen kitchen, and work-spaces. The campus has a fish-pond and an orchard. Meals are cooked from fresh, local produce, and can be suited to individual needs to a certain extent.


Arrival: 21st August Evening

Workshop: 22nd – 31st

Performance: 31st
Images from The Naked Actor workshop  from August 22nd to 31st, 2015.

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