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Coming back after a Christmas break is always tough for a dancer, one too many pigs in blankets and relaxing the body with festive merriment usually takes its toll, however for us boys at 2Faced, we faced another challenge. With less than a weeks of rehearsals to get RUN back on its feet after finishing our first tour during the autumn, the Christmas weight had to be shed quickly, both physically and mentally in order to be prepared for India.
Leaving Hereford station we were a picture of health, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, I’m not sure that lasted long into the monster journey to the airport, the combination of delayed trains, cancelled trains, diverted trains and trains that stopped too early didn’t particularly assist what should have been the easy first leg of the trip. Fortunately after making it as far as Reading, a mad dash to 3 black taxis with 15 suitcases and a sprint through the soon to be closing check in desk put us back on track and quelled all thoughts of potentially missing the flight!
Stepping out the airport doors in Mumbai plunged us straight into the craziness of India, the heat of the air fills your lungs in a truly unique way and that’s before we even get to the smells and sounds that overwhelm your senses. Travelling through India, whether it by foot, taxi or between 4 of your friends cramped in the back of a tuk-tuk is always an absolute sensory overload in the best way possible, my head was constantly on a swivel trying my hardest to look at every detail, counting the different types of animals roaming the streets, checking out the mountains of different herbs and spices the street vendors sold whilst all the time looking at the crazy traffic attempting to calm my nerves and remind myself that the drivers are masters of there admittedly rally driving/dodgem style of driving.
Mumbai was the first stop on our tour, and after acclimatising and managing to comfortably be further than 10 feet from the nearest bathroom we jumped straight into teaching workshops. The talent, ambition, attentiveness and eagerness to learn of all the students in India was astounding, often working in less than desirable conditions, in small studios, they still gave immense energy and made the workshops as enjoyable for us leading them as it was for them.
Show days in India were, to say the least, different to how we’re used to them on tour in the UK, each of the venues we performed in presented a multitude of challenges for us to overcome, whether it be an ants nest under the front of the stage, dodgy exposed wiring on each of the lighting booms or the fact that the light boxes for Tamsin Fitzgerald’s piece From Above were unpainted, in pieces and without any lights in less than 6 hours before the show started. Despite all of this, our technician Liam never once lost his cool, smashing down language barriers and commanding what can only be described as a small army of technicians he ensured that despite all of these obstacles, the show went up every time without a hitch, and for us as performers on stage it all seemed eerily familiar. I thought that performing in 30 degree heat, on handmade staging with two desk fans acting as air-conditioning would make the usually well rehearsed, solid show I’d been used to performing back in the UK feel brand new, and whilst there were aspects that obviously altered and changed venue to venue, I was surprised at how homely the stage felt as soon as the show began.
Next up we travelled to Bangalore, a much greener, slightly less manic city south of Mumbai, where we were partnered and working in conjunction with Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts during their biennial celebrations. Bangalore was my favourite stop of the tour, it managed to allow us to experience the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan city without being too overwhelming and the air felt so much cleaner in your lungs! Also we found some of the best food of the trip in Bangalore, the street kitchens of Kabab Korner offered up incredible chicken tandoori wraps and mutton biryani all served with the freshest chutneys and pickles with not a single piece of cutlery in sight. The cheap eats of Kabab Korner definitely became a regular for us during our time in Bangalore! Alongside the workshops and performances we were also in India to launch the Bench programme out there, our initiative focused on enabling female choreographers get the same amount of opportunities offered to male choreographers. The Bench conference consisted of a number of panels delving into all different issues and discussions with some fantastic guest speakers, it also gave 5 female choreographers the chance to pitch their ideas and show samples of their work to an audience and panel of peers, out of these choreographers two have been selected to get the chance to come and show their work in the as part of an autumn tour.
After a quick 3 day trip to Ahmedabad to teach workshops in the beautiful Darpana Academy it was time to begin the monster trip back to the UK, a delayed flight from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, a ten hour flight back to Heathrow, an hours journey into central London and a final 3 hours on our home away from home, the National Rail we finally made it back to Hereford where I quickly proceeded to sleep for the a consecutive 15 hours! Our time in India flew by but holds some of my most favourite memories from the past year, I feel honoured to have been a part of such a fantastic project and to have met such a wealth of incredible people and can’t wait for the relationships we seeded and nurtured to develop!