“What I do is the opposite of building walls. I build bridges”. – Siddharth Dutta

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Exclusive interview with Siddharth Dutta – Dancer / Architect

Siddharth Dutta from Bangalore,India started dancing at the age of 15 under the guidance of Shiamak Davar. Dance has always been a passion since childhood and pursued it along with my academics. He has been part of the Shimak Davar’s group and has put up performances at various venues in the city as part of the elite Special Potential Batch (SPB). He graduated as an Architect in the Year 2015 and then practised for a year.

In the year 2016 Siddharth decided to take a break from Architecture and focus on his passion. He then joined a contemporary dance school in Bangalore called Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts where he trained under the artistic director Jayachandra Palazhy in various styles like Contemporary, Ballet, Bharatanatyam and Kalaripayattu. He graduated from Attakkalari in 2017. During his time there he was fortunate enough to have been trained by some renowned contemporary

choreographers: Stefano Fardelli (Italy), Talitha Maslin( Australia) and Irene Van Zealand (Netherland). Having been trained under international faculty he decided to pursue contemporary dance so he moved to New York to train further and joined Peridance Centre. While at Peridance he has been a part of various music videos and performed at various venues in New York with leading choreographers. 

He completed one year of International Program at Peridance Capezio Centre, New York and recently graduated from the certificate program (with full scholarship) majoring in Contemporary and Ballet from the same centre.

During his stay in NYC he has had the opportunity to work with some renowned contemporary choreographers: Enzo Celli’s Vivo Ballet, Igal Perry, Julie Magneville, Nicholas Palmquist, Guanglei Hui, Rohan Bhargava, Peter Cheng, John Gutierrez, Beth Graczyk, Vivake Khamsingsavath, Brianna Mercado, Max stone, Diego Funes, The Next Stage Project, Apollonia Holzer, Rannvá Niclasen & Luca Renzi Smith.

Apart from collaborating with such renowned contemporary artists, he choreographed 7 pieces that were performed by various artists across New York City and India at prestigious venues like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Peridance Center, Attakkalari Center for Movement Arts and many more. Some of his Choreographic works are:

  • through ‘A’ Medium which focuses on exploring connections between bodies in space through a given medium.
  • What if “!”?….. this piece focuses on the condition imposed on us because of the pandemic. The lockdown, social distancing, spatial limitations etc therefore inspired by the new trajectories created by our movements.
  • the DRESSING Room:  The process behind creating this piece mainly focused on the idea of identity crisis and finding yourself, so the idea of using a dressing room where we try out different attires until we find the one that defines us.
  • State of “MIND”? (work in progress): the inspiration behind creating this piece plays with the idea of behavioral patterns in human beings and how integral and external forces have an impact on them.
  • MONOCHROME focuses on how everything in life does not have to be so complicated. It’s as simple as black and white and how we don’t need a grey area in between.
  • Wake UP is a piece inspired by relationships and a simple idea of how the grass is always greener on the other side.

NY Glam: How do you stay up to date with Dancing?

Dance as an art form is constantly evolving. Any art form From dance to design, keeping up to date with the fast paced world can be difficult to execute. Over the years, collaborating with different artists and working under many different circumstances I have discovered certain ways on how to stay up to date, with dancing.

  • Networking with people face to face

Networking is an efficient way to stay on top of the performing arts industry. Talking directly to the choreographers and Dancers will help to create a strong professional relationship that can help you stay in business and also collaborate in future.

  • Follow artists online who influence you

Any industry will have some people who are absolute experts in their field, and you should really consider following them on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram or even surf them on google. Often you can gain some valuable insight into what is going on in the dance industry by reading the Twitter feeds of some of the people who are in the business. The internet has revolutionized the way we work – it literally is the fastest method of staying up to date with the latest developments in the dance world.

  • Sign up for dance events

To stay up to date with what goes on in the dance world, following a site that offers a dance event calendar would be a good choice. There are several really good websites on the internet like Dance NYC, Dance Wave, dancing opportunities, etc. that will keep anyone up to date with the latest auditions or jobs in the dance industry.

  • Participate in Auditions and workshops

By participating in dance auditions and workshops, you will quickly expose yourself to new challenging things that will not only help you grow but also make you aware and give you a presence in the dance industry. Here you can take the opportunity to reach out to other choreographers and Dancers, share your opinion in the dance community and get professional feedback and generally collaborate on ideas.

NY Glam: What are your goals as a Dancer?

My goals as a movement artist is to bridge the gap between dance and architecture and develop a unique movement language. As an Architect and a Movement Artist, I believe that two are similar and they complement each other; they both follow rules of composition, emphasize negative spaces, have an urge to frame spaces and lead the viewer, and communicate a visual language. It is always interesting to see how bodies moving in space can emphasize certain parts of a building, isolate others, exaggerate features, and translate a dramatic feel. My aspiration as a movement artist is to set inhibitions aside, fueled by a creative process, and to allow myself to be a medium for the story inside of me to be told through my research. I don’t always know the story until it unfolds and for that my work needs to constantly evolve, maintaining mystery and provoking questions. Working with abstractions, without the restraints of literal interpretation, many of my Ideas and concepts come from my memory of shapes rather than a direct adaptation. I also see the process of creation as an intentional act of ‘making’ that comes from experimentation, trial and error, letting form come from the nature of materials and tools. What I aim to create is a visual language made of distorted lines, abstract geometric shapes, shadows, patterns & Questions, all of which engage the viewer and translate a certain sense of space and scale as architecture does, even when the subject totally differs from pure architecture.

NY Glam: What does Dancing mean to you?

Movement (Dance) is a powerful means of communication and is therefore a potent weapon to bring about change. Interaction with people and the surrounding built Structure is my artistic inspiration and stimulation. It’s about getting across a message, an emotion, or an Idea that envisions a better tomorrow.  Dance for me is something that goes far beyond the studio walls or a performance on stage. It’s about being intensely interested in the beauty and ugliness of everything surrounding one. Thus inspiring me to create art that others can find interesting.

NY Glam: How would you describe your dancing style?

To describe my movement style, I usually examine the conflict between passively living and actively forging my own space. I question my physical surroundings and begin with an impulse.

My intentions are to place lines of exact parallelism next to forms that move errantly to evoke a push-pull experience, similar to what humans experience when making difficult life choices. As a movement artist I desire to seek an emotional balance through the discovery of distorted patterns in our highly complex universe. As a movement practitioner I look for these distorted patterns and discover them when analyzing through space.

NY Glam: Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?

My biggest accomplishment so far was performing for two amazing Opera productions this season at Des Moines Metro Opera, Iowa.

  • One of them is called “Platée”

A French Baroque Opera originally composed by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Directed by Chas Rader-Shieber and Choreographed by Issac Lerner.

  • The second production is “TheQueen of Spades”

A Russian ghost story originally composed by Pryor llyich Tchaikovsky, Directed by Matthew Ozawa and Choreographed by Todd Rhodes.

When I decided to take some time off my architectural practice and explore the world of contemporary dance, I was fortunate enough to have been trained by some renowned contemporary choreographers: Stefano Fardelli (Italy), Talitha Maslin( Australia) and Irene Van Zealand (Netherland). They are the reason why I decided to move to New York and pursue my dance education further. Receiving a full scholarship to study at Peridance Center under the Artistic Director Igal Perry and my mentor Nikki Holck, was a big accomplishment for me.

As a movement artist in New York City, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with different dance companies and Choreographers: Enzo Celli’s Vivo Ballet, Igal Perry, Julie Magneville, Nicholas Palmquist, Guanglei Hui- Cross Move Dance Lab, Rohan Bhargava- ROVACO Dance Company, Peter Cheng, John Gutierrez, Beth Graczyk, Vivake Khamsingsavath, Issac Lerner, Brianna Mercado, Max stone, Diego Funes, The Next Stage Project, Apollonia Holzer, Rannvá Niclasen & Luca Renzi Smith, Todd Rhodes. Performing and showcasing my work in some of the most reputed theaters like Alvin Ailey American dance theater, Salvatore Capezio Theater, Mark O’Donell Theater, Battery Dance Festival, Baruch Performing Arts Center, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Jamaica Performing Arts Center, Blank Performing Arts Centre are my biggest accomplishments today.

NY Glam: What skills are important for a successful career in Dancing?

Dance is one of the most challenging professions today. The last couple of decades saw the rise of several dance companies and dancers across the globe. Some of the skill sets that I developed over the years working with different choreographers and Dancers, which I strongly feel are very important in order to have a career in dance are:

  • Movement Skills

I strongly believe that every human body moves differently when it comes to dance and that’s why it is one of the most important skills required. When we talk about dance today, it is much more than just the aesthetics of a structure (human body). Not only should it look interesting, but also be viable and in line with the needs of your Choreographer. So, having a different approach and understanding of the movement process is important.

  • Creativity

Although dance involves a ton of practical and functional aspects, it always has and always will be an art. And like any other art form, it requires you to be highly creative. Being an Architect I look at it like this– the buildings and structures you see today are nothing like those built a decade ago. Being imaginative and innovative will allow you to be in business in the long-run. Moreover, you would need to hone your creative instinct and trust it, if you intend to make a name for yourself. Be crazy and bizarre with your ideas and bringing them to life should be your mantra. When it comes to the Choreographic process, it often involves a trade-off between functionality and visual appeal. And that’s where these skills come in handy.

  • Communication

If dance were a one-person job, there would be no need for a choreographer or company to communicate with others. But seeing how several people are involved in the process, being strong at interpersonal skills is important. When you start working as a dancer/Choreographer, you would have to communicate with colleagues, designers, local officials, stage managers, and so on. And each of these parties has their own concerns and interests. Knowing how to communicate with these parties effectively is very important. After all, the successful completion of projects depends on these parties working as a cohesive unit.

  • Artistic Skills

Irrespective of whether you are a contemporary dancer, a commercial dancer or an old school Ballet Dancer, you would have to be aware of the different methods and processes. To develop your Artistic skills, one must have an open mind and be ready to adapt.

To cut a long story short, we can say that a fair share of artistic skills is needed to be successful in today’s dance world.

  • Teamwork

Choreographing a piece or performing with your colleagues is a collaborative effort and the ability to work well with others and get them to work as a team is a vital component of a dancer’s skill set. As I mentioned earlier every dancer is different and when you work as a team you always learn something new from each other and that knowledge will only help you to grow as an artist.

  • Visualization

As movement artists when we create something, during our initial steps we start by visualizing the process and images of the final product. You should be good at visualizing concepts and ideas at every step of the process. And it is an iterative process wherein you may need to revisit old ideas or make changes to existing ones. Although the final product is often quite different from how it was initially visualized. At the end of the day, dance/choreography is about bringing ideas to life.

NY Glam: What are your favorite stores for inspiration?

Many people do things simply out of the kindness in their heart, and do not realize they are inspiring others around them. To me, it’s my older brother who sacrificed a lot to help me pursue my dreams, my family without whom I wouldn’t be here, the endless love and support of my partner without whom I would have given up on my art, my friends for always supporting my performances and most importantly my mentors and amazing artists that I get to work with and share my artistry. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and I consider myself fortunate and blessed to have them in my life.

Artistically speaking, I would love to share some names of Architects and Choreographers who have influenced my life and continue to inspire me even today.

Ar.Frank Gehry is one of the first architects I read about and discovered that his approach to design is very similar to my movement practice. Frank Gehry drew his inspiration from     ‘junk art’, which explores raw construction materials and questions the concept of beauty.

Ar.Daniel Libeskind’s designs are out of the ordinary and very different, he always considers how he can add his own twist into a typical structure to make it unique. That approach helped me as a movement artist in ways I could not have imagined.

Crystal Pite, Artistic Director of Kidd Pivot, is known for her unique and extraordinary choreographic language. Every time I witness her work, I feel passionate and a sense of unease under my skin.

Akram Khan, Artistic Director of Akram Khan Company, is known for his unique blend of Kathak(North-Indian Classical Dance form) and Contemporary movement.

NY Glam: What are the latest art you have created?

The latest work that I was fortunate to be a part of was in collaboration with the company I am currently in- ROVACO Dance Company, The piece is called “Aaiye”(Welcome) and it is choreographed by the Artistic Director Rohan Bhargava. Aaiye is a duet exploring Indian hospitality through contemporary dance and Nukkad Natak, a form of Indian street theatre.

Apart from that I got an opportunity to showcase my own choreography. Since I created these works during the pandemic, it was challenging and interesting at the same time as I got an opportunity to explore the world in front of a camera.

The first piece is called- “ the DRESSING Room”:  The process behind creating this piece mainly focused on the idea of identity crisis and finding yourself, so the idea of using a dressing room where we try out different attires until we find the one that defines us.

The second piece is called: What if “!”?….. This piece focuses on the condition imposed on us because of the pandemic. The lockdown, social distancing, spatial limitations etc. are therefore inspired by the new trajectories created by our movements.

NY Glam: What are you currently working on?

The latest piece that I am working on is called State of “MIND”? (Work in progress): the inspiration behind creating this piece plays with the idea of behavioral patterns in human beings and how internal and external forces have an impact on them.

I just completed my 7 week contract with Des Moines Metro Opera where I performed for two different productions.

  • One of them is called “Platée”

A French Baroque Opera originally composed by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Directed by Chas Rader-Shieber and Choreographed by Issac Lerner.

  • The second production is “TheQueen of Spades”

A Russian ghost story originally composed by Pryor llyich Tchaikovsky, Directed by Matthew Ozawa and Choreographed by Todd Rhodes.

I am currently working for a contemporary dance-theater company in New York City called ROVACO Dance Company under the Artistic Director Rohan Bhargava. The company is gearing up to perform at the Battery Dance Festival on 17th August at Battery Park. Apart from that the company is going to perform at Little Island on 10th and 12th September and at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn on October 3rd. stay tuned!

NY Glam: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

As an Artist, exploring creative ways to express yourself is the act of giving form to our thoughts, ideas, experiences, and emotions, and it’s the heart and soul of all forms of art.

Growing up I have always been interested in sketching and doodling, drawing inspiration from pictures and creating new ones. I started off by sketching simple geometric shapes to learn how to sketch cartoons and slowly moved on to more complex drawings like detailed built structures. I was never good at academics and sketching was my way of escaping reality. My love for doodling got me into Architecture school and since then I never stopped. Even today as a dancer and choreographer I sketch my concepts and ideas when I am creating, so that I can explain it better to my fellow artists. Apart from that I am really passionate about Table Tennis and Snooker. On days when i am not dancing or designing, I spend a lot of time playing these two sports.

When I started training at Peridance Center, I discovered a keen interest in Choreography and over the years I have been working on developing a new choreographic language where I am incorporating my experience and knowledge as an Architect and a contemporary dancer.

NY Glam: How has your work evolved since you began Architecture?

Over the years as I dove deeper into Architecture, my work evolved drastically. As an architect we are trained to analyze things from a different perspective. As my professors would say Design is defined by a changing society, but I think the reverse is also true: throughout the years, design has challenged society and proposed new solutions and concepts. Since I graduated in 2016, these key trends have continued to influence my design process.

I have been exposed to building construction, architecture, and interior design for most of my life and undoubtedly this has influenced my sense of aesthetics. Before becoming a movement practitioner/dancer, I worked as an Architect and even then I was intrigued with the human body as a built form and how it defines space and has the possibility of containing something special, much as an architectural space would.

It was a huge leap for me to make the transition from being an Architect to a Dancer. This shift has been a creative endeavor in itself. The world of movement practice, however, provided an entirely new approach to creating art.

NY Glam: What does Architecture mean to you?

As an Architect, I have always been fascinated by the innate composition of objects and their impact upon humans through interaction. By way of my artistic pursuits, I discovered that the structured, mathematical proportions of man-made objects, especially architecture, really spoke to me. Initially, my work focused mainly on representative depictions of literal objects and spaces, later expanding to include “impossible” versions that tested the limits of physicality and “naturalistic depiction”.

For me Architecture goes beyond a physical structure. The combination of materials, weight, light and form, are all potentials that can be greater than the sum of its parts leading to the creation of tension and mystery. It is in this mystery through which our imagination is activated, enabling us to relate, contextualize and go beyond our physical experience.

NY Glam: Dancing or Architecture?

Honestly, I could never choose between Dance and Architecture because for me they work together and influence each other. To answer this question, I would like to share my

Artist Statement:

“My work explores INTERACTIVITY (the process of two people or things working together and influencing each other)”.

While creating my artwork I am inspired by architecture, particularly the way built structures frame our perception of space. My interest in architectural forms began as a way for me to find an alternative escape. The scope of my work has expanded from this initial impulse, but I am still interested in the ways that we experience and understand space, and how that understanding of space shapes our perspective.

I use a variety of elements while designing sets for my choreography, to explore architecture and movement in space. I am continuously fascinated at how simple materials can be transformed to create space. My Movement & Designs develop through observation and are a response to the places in which I create.

Often I begin my work by observing and studying the details around me, for instance; the way light filters through a window, or the play of shadows on a wall or understanding behavioral patterns in human beings and how internal and external forces have an impact on them.  Throughout this research process I move around in space and sketch ideas that help me explore connections between bodies in space through a medium. Working back and forth between choreography and design helps me develop layers, both in the work as well as in the process of its creation.

My work parallels the multiple layers of perception involved in the experience of moving bodies in an architectural space.  I enjoy the investigation that is needed to figure out just what it is one is looking at.  By transforming what is familiar and common, I hope to reveal something more complex and mysterious, drawing attention to the ways that we construct the world by looking at it.  When our perspective shifts or is distorted, new understanding becomes possible.

NY Glam: What is your advice for aspiring young Dancers or Architects?

My advice for young Dancers and Architects would be to “Question what you see?” and “Be Hungry/Curious” Because I believe “Questions” open doors to different possibilities.

I would also like to share some advice that I really resonated with, advice given by two legends who have impacted my life greatly as an Architect and a Dancer.

Crystal Pite (Choreographer) & Daniel Libeskind (Architect).

  • Follow Your Dream

In doing that, you may have to take a few risks. In simple words it means one needs to be open to change and instability. Following a big dream often means taking big risks too.

  • Follow a Life of Freedom

With all of the boundaries and constraints of a career in Architecture and Dance, it may seem difficult to feel “free” in the field. They advise young Artists to pursue a life of liberty or whatever passion they seek to do.

  • Don’t Follow Success

Their last piece of advice to young Architects and Dancers is to not follow success. In today’s world, it is so easy to compare your path to someone else’s. Don’t just follow what people tell you, but do your own research. Having said that, it does not mean you have to be a rebel and refuse to listen to your colleagues or your teacher, but rather explore the world and make your own conclusions on what path is right for you.

In other words, don’t let the success of others distract you from your own achievements. Stay focused on what you are doing. The world is going to change anyway, so why waste your time comparing? It took me a while to realize this. But if a young Artist who is just starting out can realize this, it will help them immensely in their journey.

NY Glam: Your motto in life?

When I was introduced to Ar.Santiago Calatrava and Ar.Daniel Libeskind’s Design process and their work in college, I felt an instant connection and as I dove deeper into my research I discovered how our thought process is very similar. Their concepts and ideas have been my source of inspiration since college and when I came across these beautiful quotations shared by them, I found a clear direction and their quotes have been my motto ever since.

“What I do is the opposite of building walls. I build bridges. A bridge is something that connects instead of separating”.

  • Ar.Santiago Calatrava

“Life is not just a series of calculations and a sum total of statistics, it’s about experience, it’s about participation, it is something more complex and more interesting than what is obvious”

  • Ar.Daniel Libeskind

NY Glam: What’s next?

As I mentioned earlier, my aim is to use my knowledge and experience as an Architect and a movement artist to develop a unique artistic language, a voice that can bridge the gap between contemporary dance and architecture. So as my next step I decided to do my Masters at University of Connecticut where I will pursue my MFA in Set Design starting this fall in 2021. One of the things that drew my attention to UCONN is the opportunity to collaborate with artists from different backgrounds. The important things that I’m looking for in the MFA Program are a collaborative, team-focused culture, opportunities to learn and grow my skills from a Designer’s standpoint, and a chance to learn and research with other fellow Artists and some of the most highly qualified & respected designers in the field.

While pursuing my MFA, I will simultaneously focus on creating my own personal work and continue collaborating with ROVACO Dance Company for future projects.

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