Skip to main content

AO Global: The Road to Nine. Bisakha Sarker, blogpost 3: Karuna

The state of being we explored in the third week was Karuna, ‘Compassion’, with two very sensitive artists, contemporary dancer Gizem Aksu and photographer Nirvair Singh Rai. Aakash introduced Nirvair as his friend and mentor.

Aakash never forgets to remind us that he sees this course as a journey, a journey of a collective of curious seekers. As might be expected from such a journey the ‘learning’ happens in both directions, from the tutor to the participants and also in the reverse order. Everyone’s ‘homework‘ is submitted to a single Dropbox, accessible to all the participants.  

The course is well thought through and efficiently run. The participants receive preparatory material a few days before each session in a combination of reading materials, film clips and tasks. After each session a time-limited recording of the session is made available for further reference and as a reminder of the tasks set at the session. The technique-based practical work is complemented with intellectual stimuli. A rich resource of movement material is offered, with explanations of the intentions behind the material. The short dance sequences are introduced not only with the aim of up-skilling technique but also to encourage participants to play with them, to adjust wherever necessary in order to make them their own. While the practical sessions energise the body, a wide variety of extraordinary visual images and sharing of powerful lived experiences stimulate the mind.

With the help of his incredibly powerful photographs Nirvair Singh took us with him through some of his amazing adventures. They brought alive the places and the situations he captured on his camera. They offered us glimpses of his delicate and sensitive mind and his close bond with what he sees through his lenses.  

His stunning pictures of village women in designer outfits reminded me of a time when as a part of a Primary school project in Liverpool, with the mothers of children with special needs I arranged a photoshoot for them, with the professional photographer Simon Richardson. They dressed in their sarees, which was a novelty for them, and Simon treated each of them as models. Their happiness knew no end and their entire body language changed. 

Primary school mothers in Liverpool. PC Simon Richardson


Gizam has her own philosophy. Her preparatory materials included three warm-up routines, one each for the neck, arms and the leg. In each she wanted the performers to be fully aware of the extent of the movements of a certain part of the body. In one of them she asked the dancers to keep their hands constantly in touch with the floor while exploring all kinds of movements with the rest of the body. This opened up endless possibilities of handling weight and tension as well as creating shapes that the body may never have experienced before. I think these exercises help one to be alert and make connections with every bit of the body. It seemed to me that she was trying to mark a certain part of the body to place the emotion. In the case of Karuna she placed it in the space between the heart and the kidney and moved the torso to feel and communicate the emotion of Karuna through the dynamics of the movement rather than the expressions of the face or hands.  

She deeply believes in drawing energy from nature, to the extent of immersing one’s senses in the texture, smell and the touch of natural products such as fruits or flowers. A dancer’s body is naturally aware of its position in the dancing space. However, Gizam asked everyone to bring a compass: to her it is also relevant for the dancing body to be aware of the directions in relation to the earth. Dancing is not an isolated act – it is connected to the whole universe around us.