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Fellowship Participants - Vikram Iyengar

2017 FELLOWSHIP Participants

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Meet ISPA's 2017 Global Fellowship Program participant Vikram Iyengar!

Vikram Iyengar


Founder, The Pickle Factory

A dancer, choreographer, theatre director, and performing arts researcher, writer and curator based in Calcutta, Vikram Iyengar is co-founder and Artistic Director of Ranan Performance Collective. Trained by Padmashree guru Smt. Rani Karnaa, his production work spans choreography for stage and film, dance and theatre explorations, and performance collaborations. He is noted for the conscious bringing together of kathak, movement, spoken drama and design, involving dancers and actors.

His work with directors in Europe includes choreographer for Academy Award winner Florian Gallenberger’s film, 'Shadows in Time' and co-choreographer on Helena Waldmann’s Faust Prize nominated 'Made in Bangladesh'. Since 2013 he works regularly with Indian contemporary dancer-choreographer Preethi Athreya on solo and group projects.

An INLAKS scholar with an MA in Performing Arts from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, he has taught Asian and Intercultural Theatre at university levels, contributed articles to various publications, presented papers at international seminars, conducted a variety of workshops and worked on several arts research projects in India and abroad. Empaneled with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and various other national bodies, he is a recipient of the Government of India National Scholarship and Junior Fellowship for Dance. Co-editor of the e-theatre journal, e-Rang from 2009-2015, he was an ARThink South Asia Arts Management Fellow in 2013-2014 where he developed the idea for The Pickle Factory - a venue for dance practice and discourse. He was awarded the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar for contemporary dance by the national Sangeet Natak Akademi in December 2015.

Vikram, What are the three adjectives that describe you? 
Here are three phrases that I’d use to describe myself:
- I’m a creative dreamer passionate about what I do and how I do it
- I can be stubbornly tenacious when I want something 
- I’m blessed with a droll sense of humour with an eye for the ludicrous and absurd


What’s your favorite city in the world?

‘Favourite’ encompasses too much. But I’m going to talk about two cities: Calcutta, the city I was born in, trained in and now live in; and Berlin. 

Every time I visit Berlin, I am reminded of Calcutta – or rather of what Calcutta could or aspire to be. Berlin has little industry or business, it thrives on the economy and reputation of being a centre for arts, artists and arts spaces. The city is full of old spaces – gymnasiums, churches, shopping malls, merchant houses, pumping stations – all converted by artists for the arts. It is a centre of artistic, cultural, and socio-political activity, and that is its local and international draw. 

Calcutta is still referred to as the cultural capital of India, and has historically been at the forefront of cultural, political and social movements. Far more comfortable with the currency of ideas and imagination than business and economics, it has a hungry audience for art. It is also one of the most architecturally textured cities in India, and one of the few metropolises where old buildings still remain intact. These old unused buildings now cry out to be converted into spaces for the arts.


Can you name one channel that you subscribe to or frequently visit to stay up-to-date with news about the arts and culture in your region? 
Vikram: This is unfortunately a very sparse area in India – at least in the performing arts, more specifically in dance and theatre. There’s a lack of networks, circuits and presenters in general, and therefore a lack of platforms of information and developments in the arts. Still, a couple of resources that give regular news are (very Indian dance focused), and e-Rang the fortnightly web journal from the India Theatre Forum.

Anything else that you would like to share with our ISPA community about you and your work

As a dancer-choreographer and someone invested in the arts in general, a core question has always been how to make dance – classical or contemporary – more accessible to and enjoyable for uninitiated or tentative audiences. How do we share the magic, how do we valuably connect ourselves to the world at large and contribute to imagining our futures? 

Bringing all this together is a new venture: The Pickle Factory – a proposed hub for the practice, discourse and presentation of dance and movement-based work in India. It will constantly be inspired by and revisit the question of what it may mean to create, share and reflect on such work in the changing scenarios of a uniquely Indian context, while remaining closely connected to an international network of similar endeavours. 

We begin operations with a pop-up festival in Calcutta in February-March 2018, with an exciting programme of performances, works-in-progress, artist-audience interactions, discussions and workshops. The schedule will feature many firsts for the city, and add immensely to Calcutta’s reputation as a culturally active city. 2018 will also see two residencies in July and October where artists will focus on research, creation and exchange with the dance community in Calcutta. 

The venues for 2018 are in two old buildings emblematic of the city’s culturally rich history: a disused cinema, and an old Parsi community centre. Over the next three years The Pickle Factory will follow a nomadic model, entering and activating various old buildings in the architecturally textured fabric of Calcutta, converting them into spaces for the arts.  Our aim is to establish a permanent venue in such a converted space – the first of its kind in India dedicated to the movement arts.

Wish us luck, and come visit us whenever you happen to be in the crazy city of Calcutta!

>>View Vikram's member profile (member sign-in required)

Thank you to ISPA’s Fellowship Patron and Fellowship Challenge Campaign Donors for their generous support of the Fellowship Program. Learn how you can help support the Fellowship Program.