BOXED and its inspirations for the future (Part 2)

BOXED and its inspirations for the future (Part 2)

Digital Intimacy: ‘And a ‘Morning After’?'

Chitra Sundaram, MBE

University of London


We discuss (with clips) a new online initiative entitled, BOXED, created and produced by Dr. Anita Ratnam, performing artist based in Chennai, India, during the 2020 lockdown. BOXED provided creative opportunities during Covid to dancers trained in Indian styles (traditional and beyond). Dancers applied to BOXED by contributing 2-minute choreography followed by a 1-minute commentary on their experience during lockdown–restlessness, waiting, mental stress and new illuminations on creating dance-for-camera, initially in confined spaces-indoor (kitchen-counters, balconies, basements), and as pandemic protocols shifted, also outdoors (porches, backyards)—along with their choices of music, silence, props, and movement style/s.

Dr. Ratnam, described as an artpreneur, the catalyst in initiating and realizing BOXED, was assisted by London-based, Series Consultant Chitra Sundaram, a dance-theatre performer, researcher/teacher. Dr. Ratnam invited different dancers/ scholars to deliver a 4-minute commentary on each of the 8 segments, May 16 to July 3, 2020. Innovative choreography flowed from dancers across India, from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, U.K., California, Australia, and South Africa. Each dancer was mentored, with camera angles, and sites discussed. Dancers experienced a psychological fillip during pandemic isolation.

BOXED has become a template of how an existing crisis can inspire original dance art. A year later, although there are several creative dance films, BOXED stands apart for breaking the paralysis that gripped the dance world during the 2020 lockdowns. 

Biography: Chitra Sundaram

Chitra Sundaram works as a dance-theatre educator and researcher, an acting trainer, dramaturg, choreographer, and mentor. Chitra has been teaching performance and Asian theatres for well over a decade in the Department of Drama and Performance at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK. Her acclaimed performative creations range from the subversively classical solo in Bharatanatyam, to site-specific mixed-genres outdoor ensemble work; from the social critique of the patriarchal feminine to a contemporary take on a grotesque Hindu myth, and as well a more traditional retelling from the Mahabharata, which was shortlisted for British Dance Edition. In the ‘80s, Chitra co-created and toured ‘Visions of Rhythm’ with South African born Corrine Bougaard (Founder, Union Dance Company), as one of the earliest ‘fusion’ works in the UK. She has been awarded an MBE and is also a Fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.