Meet Ali Salmi, who's taking dance away from formal stages in a quest to explore urban spaces

French dancer and choreographer Ali Salmi on exploring urban space with the medium of dance

Heena Khandelwal Published :  08th January 2020 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  08th January 2020 12:00 AM

French dancer and choreographer Ali Salmi

In his attempt to explore urban spaces with the help of the medium of dance, French dancer and choreographer Ali Salmi enthralled the people of Mumbai with his dance performances, which he did at a public park in South Mumbai. As he readies for another performance in Delhi, we learn more about his expression while understanding his reasons behind taking dance away from formal stages. Excerpts:

Q: You were a student of engineering and architecture, what pulled you towards dance? And, when did you think about taking dance away from formal stages and why? What were your thoughts behind it
Since childhood, I have been sensitive about movements and which is why I started playing sports like basketball. For me, it wasn’t about winning a competition but to enjoy the beauty of movement, which involves the relationship between time and gravity. And, the same goes for my dance, it is not about the floor but about the grass, concrete, sand and everything else where my mind and body instructs me to dance. For me, dance is not about getting restricted into spaces, dance is about creating spaces in the available space, it is about a free flow of body, heart and mind. I use my dance moves along with engineering and architecture learning to tell stories of humanity within these spaces. Each place has a vibration, a resonance and I want to bring this into our dance. And, our challenge is to present all the emotions to the audience and create a meaning of the meeting between our dance and the place.

I was drawn towards dance at an early stage and to give a name to my passion, I formed a company, Osmosis Cie in 1993. Since then, I have performed across the world – Europe, North America, South America, Asia, including many parts of India like Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Trivandrum, Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore.

Q: Tell us more about the performance that you did in Mumbai.
We used to practice a lot and rehearse every movement so that we could create a physical statement from it and establish a connection with all the memories that have been given to us by this place. We started by creating the set which was inspired by the Dhobi Ghat and the artists and technical team spent a great deal of time on it. We utilised the night time to work on light and video projections so that we could work in real conditions and it helped us immensely to understand how to create the dance piece with shadows and light.


Q: And, what made you choose Priyadarshini Park?
It’s a great spot in the middle of the city with beautiful landscapes. The humanity of Mumbai is very 'present' here. If I want to dance in the spaces of a city, I need time to feel and understand it. It’s like I want to explore and understand it’s vibe, meaning and breath and this place had the perfect vibe to it!

Q: What are the challenges that you usually face while dancing in a place which isn't created for dance? What were the challenges that you faced at Priyadarshini Park?
It was an opportunity to open our way of working as dancers.  I was very surprised by the feedback of the audience who were very curious about this art - about dancing in the middle of the city. They wanted to know about this ‘unusual dance’. So whatever challenges we faced got evaporated with the lovely feedback we received.

Q: As you said, you also included elements like video projection in your performance here. Is there a set of elements that are an integral part of your performance? Can you please take us through them.
Yes, images and videos are a part of our dance performance, they help us in conveying the emotions of our dance and make physical statements. 

French dancer and choreographer Ali Salmi

Q: Lastly, what's next?
The next step is New Delhi. I am performing at the Lodhi Art District for the upcoming Art Fair on Jan 30. It is in collaboration with St+Art India Foundation, National School of Drama and Institut Français Inde.

The performance in Mumbai was in association with Alliance Française de Bombay, Institut Français, Région Grand Est, and Osmosis Cie