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Sando Art Council honours Salickram

By SEETA PERSAD Saturday, November 1 2008

click on pic to zoom in
Award-winning choreographer and dancer Michael Salickram....
Award-winning choreographer and dancer Michael Salickram....

WHILE MOST of the emphasis is placed on soca, chutney and the steelpan, dance is an integral part of TT’s culture. So said award-winning choreographer Michael Salickram when he was honoured by the San Fernando Art Council for his contribution to the development of culture at the opening of Sanfest recently.

In accepting the award, Salickram told the gathering he has spent his entire life in developing the art of dance throughout the country, working with dancers from the Art Council, as well as the Malick Folk Performers and other groups in choreographing soca and chutney items for the stage. He did the opening act of the Chutney Soca Monarch finals last Carnival season, as well as several band launches throughout the country.

Reflecting on his life as a choreographer/dancer, he said he did not choose dance but dance chose him.

“I was pursuing my education in hope of holding down a full time job and I heard music next door to my house and ventured out to see people learning dance and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.

From that humble beginning, Salickram moved up the ranks to become TT’s top choreographer and dancer, with hundreds of students here and in the United States. Several of his former students are now involved in choreography and tutoring. He particularly loves to do folk dance because it is full of energy and strength.

“It is interesting to note that the entire body of the dancer is engaged as a single unit. This body language of the dancer has to be poetic and powerful,” he said.

Salickram said in East Indian dance, “natya” speaks in great detail of the different kinds of postures, facial expressions, mudra or hand expressions, including the attire and ornaments to be used. All the dance forms are structured around the nine rasas or emotions – hasya (happiness), shoka (sorrow), krodha (anger), karuna (compassion), bhibasta (disgust), adhbhuta (wonder) bhaya (fear), vikram (courage) and shanta (serenity). While this belongs to the classical dances of India it applies to folk dancing as well. “One can express these emotions in more than one way,” he said, adding that these movements can be translated into modern styles of dance for soca and other Trinidad blends of music. Salickram works for up to 12 hours a day training students. Other than the actual dances, he spends a lot of time designing and making the costumes and props used in his production.

Salickram thanked the San Fernando Art Council for recognising him and his art, saying the honour inspires him to continue achieving. He expressed his love for working on dances of African and East Indian tradition as this reaches a wide cross section of people.

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