India Diary

India Diary

February 22-23-24, 2013:    8th annual Carnival of e-Creativity in the Sattal Estate, just above Bhimtal, near Nainital, in the Lower Kumaon of the Himalayan Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Jennifer Mascall, Darcy McMurray, John McFarlane and Martin Gottfrit joined the three day gathering.  Jennifer Mascall and Indian choreographer Sheela Raj presented the first stage of their collaboration.   Sheela has since travelled to Vancouver to further pursue the exchange and teach.  Darcy and Jennifer introduced the Nijinksy Gibber Jazz Public Research model.    CeC was a catalyst for ideas and plans that all involved continue cultivating  here and in India.  

I picked up Darcy and Jennifer up at the airport on return from Delhi,  and when I asked how it went, they said  “For three days, not one single person said no, ever.  Three days of YES!”  Thanks to Jennifer Mascall for sharing her roadnotes  here.

Feb 17 2013   EN ROUTE:   VANCOUVER TO DELHIbs_c


In Seattle airport I came upon a bestseller about artists as thieves. It suggests that no art is original; good artists steal good ideas and make them their own, not-so-good artists steal from one artist and imitate.


Felt familiar with this idea, as there is talk in Nail to House of different ideas, and of how impossible it was to be a derivative artist as then you wouldn’t in fact, be an artist.  I think now this is shallow for there are remarkable artists who are imitators.  I think we each have our own questions to solve.


It is provocative to say we steal but underneath it is the question of what makes us drawn to certain ideas.  Why do we jump at some and notice others?  There are different ways to be taken by an idea. 


The distance between the idea and its resolution in dance is often very indirect.



Feb19, 2013  DELHI


I’d  forgotten!  Everyone here is doing impossible things.  Four men snaking a millipede of luggage carts laughing as he directs the narrow curve. It’s a happy culture.images





Taxis and rickshaws impose a two day strike.  Our 10AM departure is stepped up to 7AM to avoid the inevitable wall of resistance provided by striking cars.


About 4 AM a symphony of horns began, not the blare blare conversation of the cars on the roads but  a resonating swell—was it a temple nearby or the cars unified in protest? Whichever, it was a beautiful tonal bath.  As we exited Delhi the roads were free of taxis,  free of rickshaws and driving became easy to on the spacious boulevards.


The cars ,trucks, bicycles and tractors on peripheral roads outside the city  are an improvisation. Two lanes can be five as the constant weave along the strand of the road is negotiated.  Cows and goats speckle the landscape, saris drying in the sun, garbage filling in the collage.



Feb 21 2013     SATTAL ESTATE, UTTURAKHAND         IMG_0101


..the day before CEC  (Carnival of Electronic Creativity) actually begins.


Ensconced in our stone hut, we searched for twigs for the fireplace.


Met everyone as they arrived and had a conversation with improvisers and non-improvisers  about improvisation. Patricia, who doesn’t improvise, spoke of why…..patmrtn


Darcy, Jesse and I began work in the tent on images of India, stacking chairs on our heads, much to the builder’s surprise – an implausible task, to reassemble so much we’d witnessed thus far.

We continued later with Martin, and Jesse wrote poems for the images India had imprinted on us.



Feb 23rd/24th            Impressions from Sattal EstateP1010116


Yoga in our stone hut before breakfast, wool blankets on the cold floor, the hint of fire in the fire place to take the edge off.  Jennifer leads a few of us through a class to try and move some blood through our frozen bodies.  As class winds up, the storm begins.  Winds – howling through the Himalayan mountains – thick black cloud descends upon us.


The day is set up for presentations of what everyone is working on –  each speaker offering a 30 minute glimpse into their worlds.


We were struck by Freeman Murphy, who is making buildings from pallet racks – pop up buildings, creating instant studio, live work spaces. These could be perfect dance studios.  He is also helping young entrepreneurs start up businesses. His interest lies in using the internet to facilitate working remotely.


Later that day, we went back to the hut, made a fire and began the spark of creating a dance. Rakesh and Darcy had met just over lunch.  They did their first dance – a nine minute improvisation watched by Sheela, Swati and myself.  Starting slow, getting to know each other, finding points of connection, interception and trust.  A first dance is different – wish we had taped it.



Feb 25, 2013P1010095


Having suffered a violent attack of food poisoning the night before, Darcy scraped herself out of bed with a splitting headache to begin a day filled with performances and collaborations.aud

Sheela presented her works, ending with a duet by Rakesh and Darcy which slowly integrated the whole crowd in – adding rhythms, instruments and dancing along – a gift that Sheela truly possesses.



We presented our Images of India—Darcy performing our 5 images of India. Gilles Aubry recording sound, Frederich Florian recording video, Dia (last name?) making gifts, Jesse Gotfrit reading the poems he’d created for the images, Martin Gotfrit improvising voice and guitar, John Macfarlane lighting and me directing.  It felt like a film shoot!




1. Darcy stacks 5 chairs, covered in white cloth slips, precariously on her head.  On the streets here everyone is doing more than seems possible—6 people riding a scooter, 15 people in a rickshaw, 10 mattresses piled on the back of a bicycle, trucks filled to a tipping point, women carrying more than their body weight on their heads.


2. A schoolboy in uniform walking home.  Bent forward, hand on his leg, a stacked support, as though his bones are being willed into each step.  We can see his essential skeleton, no cool affectations – the simple act of walking consuming his entire attention.  Darcy moved each step pulling her feet from the top of her head.


3. The women here clearly feel the space above their head, a place used for stacking and carrying many things. We tried it plain, then added twigs. Darcy stacked a bunch of twigs with no string, and magically it rested – the first time only – like a fan on her head as she walked and turned.


4. Four men standing on the side of the road, scarves wrapped around their head and shoulders. Eyes leering. Faces that hold a lifetime of stories. Darcy, joined by Jesse and Shalom, use their arms to conceal and reveal.


5.  The men, asleep in their rickshaws, wake at once and start to peddle. Men sleeping on the street in the fruit stands that they’ll work in all day. For this Darcy made a phrase that unfurled, stood up, did her day and curled back in for the night. A sequence repeated 3 times, the last stood up and smoked a bidi.


Later that afternoon, Darcy improvised as Petra played the mystical dulcimer, with Paul on calabash – a tranquil healing dance.



That evening, we were led on a procession in the dark to a bulbous rooted tree.  John held up the Brutal Telling light, illuminating Darcy and Rakesh wearing masks. Astonishing how different the entire impression of a dancer becomes when masked.  It was as though Darcy was someone else completely.  rmpsdg

The dancers, dressed in white, were painted by (??), then led viewers back to the tent, where the evening continued in a full scale collaboration amongst any presenters who chose to participate.



For us, CEC might have been called the Carnival of Eclectic Collaboration. Singly and together, Darcy and I collaborated with 35 different artists in 7 collaborations.darcy


It was remarkable to show our Nijinsky images and have Frederich Glorian video, Dia (last name?) make gifs, Gilles tape Jesse Gotfrits poems, John Macfarlane light and isolate the images,  Martin Gotfrit improvise the music. It all happened gently,  no one saying no to any task – unstipulated collaboration.



Feb 26, 2013EN ROUTE   P1010117


Leaving the serenity of the mountains we drove 8 hours, returning to the dusty bustle of Delhi.

Delhi, India


Feb 27, 2013             DELHI


We went to Bhoomika, a long standing contemporary dance company in Delhi, where we taught a workshop. I gave the technique class I have been developing and then we did some contact partnering work. The fifteen dancers were thirsty for information and eager with questions.  For the majority, this information was completely new.


Feb 27, 2013


Vinny and Ashhar who are the company Syn;drome are involved in a project bringing attention to the Yamuna River.  At Vinny’s house, which was functioning as 2 storeys of studio, they hosted an international webcast from 6-9PM.  Darcy danced for three hours with two other dancers Yuko and Pradeep, to monologues by Trip and Sheela Raj and later to projections about the river that Vinny and Ashhar had been collecting for months. Petra played dulcimer, Frederich Glorian and Paul (last name?) played and Trita (last name?) sang, accompanied by Ashhar and Vinny playing electronic soundscapes.


Darcy and I collaborated on a piece using glasses of water. Beginning with a clear glass she poured the single 8 ounces into one glass after another, each holding different things that would be in the river; mud, rocks greenery, garbage, leaves, plastic. The webcam shot it and held the last shot for a long time on the dirty dribble of water that remained.2224f568-0909-4455-9262-3af85d063489HiRes

March 1, 2013


Darcy taught a workshop at a school called Dance Works in Delhi. In the evening, Triti’s band SPACE was performing at an art gallery in the artists colony of Haus Khas.  Darcy performed to several of their songs as did several poets, Frederich Glorian, amongst other artists.  SPACE is a rock/pop/punk band of three: Paul ,Ritika and Trita, who write songs about women in India. The gallery was wonderful, filled with old carved furniture and a welcoming late night salon atmosphere.


March 2,3 2013


Darcy and Sheela taught an 8 hour workshop at another school called GATI.  I taught a 4.5 hour workshop at a school called STANCE, where Himani, one of the directors, had studied at Toronto Dance Theatre.  It was satisfying for both of us, as the students were completely ready for new information.


March 4, 2013


In the morning we visited the Canadian High Commission to tell them about our work over the past two weeks and describe the continuing collaboration with Sheela when she comes to Vancouver in April, 2013.  


One of our goals would be to create a piece to be performed in the Barhats Festival in February, 2014.  The meeting went well, but it is evident that much energy will be required to keep the channels open.


Darcy then taught a (Pilates) private to the director of GATI, an umbrella forum for Delhi dance artists. He is very eager for a return visit and set up workshops there within the next two years.


In the late afternoon light Vinny, Sheela and I filmed Yuko and Darcy dancing on the remenance of an old wharf at the side of the Yamuna River.  I’d previously seen the river only from the road or metro. It was good to be there, discussing the direction of Vinny’s work, and envisioning how dance and performance could be a part of it. We are interested in how Vancouver could fit into the next simulcast.


This trip has been an exhilarating whirlwind of collaborating, teaching, and extending the web of connections. It is clear that India is bursting with eager energy, respecting tradition, but craving new ways of thinking, working and creating, it is at the brink of a major creative shift.postr

 For more photos of CeC 2013, visit