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December 12, 2004

Deaf Olympics: Astad Deboo to perform

From: Mid-Day Mumbai, India - Dec 12, 2004

By: Devyani Srivastava
December 12, 2004

THE PIONEER of contemporary dance in India, Astad Deboo along with a troupe of 12 young women — hearing impaired dancers who hail from the Clarke School of Deaf in Chennai and comprise the Astad Deboo Dance Company — are on the verge of creating history. Maestro Deboo and his troupe will be heading to Melbourne, Australia to perform at the 20th Annual Deaf Olympics in January 2005.

Deboo is one of the two choreographers selected by the Deaf Olympics Committee to create a special five-minute programme for the event. During the following nine days at the Deaf Olympics, they will also perform eight shows of Contraposition, a dance choreographed by Deboo.

A collaboration between the Clarke School of the Deaf and Deboo's Astad Deboo Dance Foundation, under whose patronage the event is being produced, Contraposition is a marriage between the various traditions of Indian classical dance forms and nine emotions that are depicted through them.

Prior to their departure to Australia, Deboo and his troupe will perform Contraposition in four cities in India, including Chennai, Bangalore, New Delhi and lastly, in Mumbai.

Both the dancers as well as Deboo have been slogging to make the performances in India and abroad as successful as possible. "Since the last three months, we have been rehearsing for five hours daily. We aren't aiming for perfection, just excellence," smiles Deboo.

It hasn't been easy, he confesses. "During a rehearsal, I was so frustrated that I started shouting at one of the girls. She burst into tears, and I also had tears in my eyes. Then, all the dancers and I started crying!" he laughs. Deboo doesn't want the audiences to overlook any mistakes these dancers make, simply because they are deaf. "They are professional," he states.

Deboo has been nurturing cultural talent among the deaf in India since the last 16 years. Since his dancers cannot dance by ear, he teaches them to respond to musical vibrations and a special eight-count gesture system, which he demonstrates. "They normally dance on a wooden floor," he reveals. A thump on the planks of a floor, or a change in lighting serve as cues during performances.

Along with choreographing Contraposition, Deboo has also been fulfilling his responsibilities as a producer, the biggest of which is raising money for sponsorship for their stint at the Deaf Olympics.

"We're short of Rs 10 lakh," he says glumly. Obtaining sponsorship is perhaps the hardest part, he admits.

"I'm not a page three person, and neither have I performed in Mumbai for the last five years. There are no takers here for my kind of work," he shrugs. Still, he remains optimistic: "Things are improving gradually in India."

It's a fact confirmed through a divine interruption. "We just got Rs two lakh!" he exclaims, jubilant after a phone call. Contraposition will be performed at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA on December 21, 22 and 23.

What are the Deaflympic games?

The Deaflympic Games are among the world's fastest growing sports events. About 3,000 deaf athletes from about 80 nations are slated to participate in the 20th Summer Games in Melbourne, Australia, in January, 2005.

The games are built on 80 years of tradition. Organised since 1924 by the Comité International des Sports des Sourds, CISS (The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf), the first games were held in Paris. Winter Games were added in 1949.

The Deaflympic games are sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, IOC. The need for separate games for deaf athletes is not just evident in the numbers of participants.

Deaf athletes are distinguished from all others in their special communication needs on the sports field, as well as in the social interaction that is an equally vital part of the games. For details, log on to

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