Guest Post: Scottish Ballet musician David Boyd in India with the Big Dance Pledge
One of the first of many system shocks on arriving in India is simply how many human beings there are in one place. Delhi alone has a third more people than the whole of Scotland, and Mumbai has more than double - and everyone is doing something - moving things, cleaning things, building things, selling things, and having loaded the Scottish Ballet team into our tiny wee taxi - with my instruments lashed perilously on the roof rack - off we went, straight into the middle of it all - at speed.
We were teaching the Big Dance Pledge to groups of mostly specialist dance teachers as part of the Enriching Education programme run by the British Council at Kaushalya World School in Greater Noida, a fast growing new city in Utter Pradesh state. We were welcomed with a traditional Bindi or Tilak placed on the third eye, and a garland of fresh flowers to wear. There were some formalities, speeches and a short ceremony where we joined in the lighting of an oil lamp signifying ‘the illumination of the darkness of ignorance’. We were then given a tour of the school facilities - and had a sneak peak at some of the students who were in on Saturday morning rehearsing diligently for various upcoming performances on a huge rickety outdoor stage. As visiting guest facilitators we were treated with great respect and always formally addressed as ma’am and sir - which doesn’t happen that much in Glasgow. There was much Indian head wobbling - which indicates that the listener agrees with and is following the conversation, and is highly addictive.
Our students ranged from professional highly skilled Indian classical dancers to music and science teachers with a desire to bring the Big Dance to their schools. Some of them had made a two day train journey in order to attend! Their enthusiasm, and the speed with which they were able to learn the choreography and body percussion techniques was remarkable, and quite humbling. It’s a shame that we had so little time and were unable to see and learn some of the extraordinary Indian dance and music styles that our students were trained in - there was so much they wanted to share.
The keenness of our students was matched by the great hospitality of our hosts who took advantage of any opportunity to feed us exquisite veggie food and drinks. Literally just sitting down was enough to cue another snack being offered by one of a large number of ninja catering staff who appeared and vanished soundlessly. Technical support to plug in our iPod was at least 10 people (men actually) fiddling with various cables and connectors and all talking at once.
We had more pictures taken of us than any of us have ever experienced - everyone had a cameraphone, and some kind of social media account that required what’s called ‘a click’. Posing for these after each class for over an hour gave us extra super smiley muscles. We suspect some people had more than one ‘click’.
It’s almost impossible to describe the overload of sights, sounds and smells that greet you in Delhi - it’s exciting, totally chaotic, and a little dangerous in a way that we don’t just encounter in Europe, but the overall impression we were left with was the warmth and generosity of everyone we met and the desire to take up the many invitations from new friends to return soon.
We are really looking forward to seeing the many versions of Big Dance that are now being made all over the country!
All the best,