Helena Waldmann's 'Made in Bangladesh' Highlights the Plight of Garment Workers Through Dance

By Jaime Prisco on Jan 31, 2015 02:20 PM EST

German choreographer and theatre director Helena Waldmann tells the story of the exploited Bangladesh garment workers in a new dance piece titled “Made in Bangladesh.”

Her new piece will focus on those living on the lowest rung of laborers in mass-production factories and the pressures that they face living in that world, as well as their dreams and aspirations.
Her story begins long before the world was made aware of the terrible conditions facing garment workers after a 2013 factory building collapse in Dhaka which killed 1,100 laborers. Waldmann started interviewing workers for her piece in 2010 and has finally finished her 4-year-long project. Now she will tell their stories through dance.

Much of the piece highlights the connection between the large sewing machines that the workers use and the classical Indian dance form of Kathak, who’s staccato rhythms mirror the sound of the rapid needles on the machines.

“I have deconstructed Kathak for this show, taken out its lyrical aspects and the bells on the feet," said Waldmann in an interview with "I am using the footwork and arm work as a tool to talk about exploitation.”

Before starting this project, Waldmann was an internationally known name in dance theatre, especially for her ability to address social and political issue through her choreography. She hopes that the show can also be symbol for other kinds of exploration, such as those who are forced into the demands of the job market, with low wages and no job security.

Waldmann held auditions in order to find a troupe of 12 Kathak dancers for the performance. Many of the Kathak portions were choreographed by Indian dancer Vikram Iyengar, who also performs in the show in the roles of a factory manager as well as ballet master. Waldmann also invited 12 factory workers, to interact with the dancers on a personal level.

“Made in Bangladesh,” produced by Waldmann’s dance company Ectopia, has recently finished European and Indian tour and premiered in Dhaka on Jan. 25.

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TagsHelena Waldmann, Made in Bangladesh, Garment Workers, Dance

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