BOXED and its inspirations for the future (Part 3)

BOXED and its inspirations for the future (Part 3)

Dr Ketu H. Katrak

University of California, Irvine


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: Prof. Ketu H. Katrak

Prof. Ketu H. Katrak, born in India, is Professor of Drama at the University of California, Irvine. Author of Jay Pather: Performance and Spatial Politics in South Africa (Indiana University Press, March 2021); Contemporary Indian Dance: New Creative Choreography in India and the Diaspora (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, ppb 2014), Politics of the Female Body: Postcolonial Women Writers (Rutgers UP, 2006), among other publications on African and Postcolonial Writers, Performance and Feminist Theory.