What's the thoughts behind Mango Cherry Mix? Why have you described
it as an interracial duet ..... in the presence of a 'familiar'
Iíve made many collaborative works with Western dancers and
choreographers, but there is always a certain distance, an unfamiliarity
in which a part of my Indian-ness remains unarticulated. For
instance Iíve never been able to incorporate abhinaya into my
contemporary work because it is not part of the contemporary
medium. So I wanted to make a work with someone who was a non-Indian
but an Easterner, who would be different yet fully understand
and appreciate the Eastern sensibility. I am very interested
in how the "internal" is brought out in performance.
So Mango Cherry Mix is about dealing with our inner experiences
that are very deeply culturally influenced, and bring them out
through an unconventional performance with the support of and
in front of a sympathetic other. In essence this work has been
about "seeing" the other free of any cultural judgments,
neither exoticizing the other nor being discomforted by their
culturally-specific internal processes.
How can dance explore the spiritual possibilities of 'shunya'
or a Zend experience?
Well first of all the dancers have to believe in that experience.
I am deeply interested in it and when I saw Hiroshi perform
in Birmingham a couple of years ago, I could see that he too
was coming from that very "Zen" place. So, if the
individual has that experience within him or her then it just
needs a very safe space to come out. And Mango Cherry Mix was
just that, it was about creating a very trusting, non-judgmental
space where one could just "Be," both individually
and culturally, without feeling unselfconscious. Self-consciousness
being the biggest deterrent to the experience of emptying out!
How have Bharatanatyam & Japanese dance contributed to the
production? What method did you adapt to compose it?
Apart from sound training in contemporary dance, Hiroshi also
learns a classical Japanese form called Nihon Buyo as well as
Bharatanatyam. And as you know, my main form is Bharatanatyam
but I also have worked in several contemporary works and also
include yoga in my work. The attempt in this piece was to pull
out the quiet essence of these Eastern forms, it was not so
much about the form or the technique but what we considered
the essential experience of these forms which comes out in the
quiet soulfulness of a padam for instance. In fact, the underlying
focus of this production was to bring forth this experience
that we both cherish deeply and which we have imbibed through
our own traditional forms, and which can get so easily glossed
over or even intimidated because it is very subtle, quiet and
This is essentially a contemporary, abstract, international
dance. Why have you based portions on a thumri or a padam or
even incorporated Kathak?
To me abhinaya is the most beautiful aspect of Indian dance,
I often say it is "Indiaís gift to the world," but
contemporary dance is viewed as being blank, where the face
does not dance. And I am not comfortable with that. On the other
hand I am also as uncomfortable with self-conscious, hyper-articulated
saccharine abhinaya that is often presented in the classical
format. For me abhinaya comes from a very real place in the
heart and also historically. It is as much a part of this world
as it is of that world, i.e. it is spiritual, but it can also
be carnal and even mercenary. God, king, patron, money, seduction,
ingratiation, beauty are all wedded into it in a rather layered
and complex fashion. So, in Mango Cherry Mix, I tried to open
a space for abhinaya free from the umbrella of classicism, yet
vital, interactive and real.
fact, a part of me feels that abhinaya is only possible in these
kinds of settings, because classicism is too loaded with notions
of purity and heritage which can become oppressive and the performer
cannot escape that self-conscious mode. Therefore, I included
the padam and the thumri! And I brought in shades of Kathak,
because I am a North Indian and I have a much clearer idea of
dance in the courts or even kothas. It is easier for me to establish
dance as an interactive, seductive engagement with the patron
through shades of the salami and the mujra, therefore Kathak!