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In a powerful and particularly relevant session titled, Re-imagining Dance during the Lockdown, acclaimed Kathak and contemporary dancer-choreographer, Aditi Mangaldas took participants of the Dance India Asia Pacific 2020 on a crystal clear journey into the creative thoughts, instincts and impulses that dictated and determined her artistic course over the last six months.

“True art has to breathe the life of today,” Aditi said, referring to the title of this session and how she felt it was crucial for her not to remain in the past but adapt and use her art to reflect the narrative of the now. “I have been in two apartments, away from the earth but when I look out of my window, I see the ocean and the sky changing colours. I have been fortunate in the recent past to go to the countryside, smell the grass and feel life vibrating. I had to, in the last six months, keep the dance alive in my body, mind and heart.”

Aditi allowed us to understand her process with re-imagining her own dance through the lens of six central ideas/words — Contemplation, Introspection, Compassion, Rejuvenation, Conception and Celebration. What was interesting about her entire journey was the honesty with which she envisaged the art in the current context. “I had to be conscious of my new reality,” said Aditi, “I felt it was not right for me to imagine Navarasa from an earlier production the way I’d imagined it before; so what you see in the short films re-interpret navarasa through various constrictions — bars, grills in windows, bubble wraps, tiny balconies, etc.”

Central to Aditi’s talk was the importance of allowing your dance to become a window to the larger world, and not merely those who have typically followed your dance trajectory, so to speak. Elaborating on the idea of Contemplation, Aditi spoke about how a stage creates a certain physical distance between the artiste and the audience but somehow the lockdown became for her, a moment to reveal, share her vulnerabilities, anxieties and every day, in the early stages of the lockdown, she began sharing her dance within the confines of her home. “It was amazing how these videos travelled through the mountains and oceans and I had heart-warming responses from corners of the globe and even though they were saying thank you to me, I felt like I was saying thank you to them for reaching out to me within the space of my four walls .”

Aditi’s re-imagination was also enriched by her own introspection and consciousness of not only her reality and sense of privilege but also recognising it in a manner that is inclusive, and one that moves forward. Born out of these ideas were a series of short films that were inspired by productions in the past and fused interestingly and innovatively with imagery and expressions current to the life of an artiste in the midst of a pandemic.

Amongst the many projects and ideas that were born out of this period of contemplation, introspection, conception, rejuvenation and the need to celebrate the art within us, Aditi created Amorphous — The Zero Moment, a coming together of the original work Zero Moment choreographed by her way back in 2006 coupled with her creative impulse in the midst of a confinement where the concept of time seems warped. “It feels as though I am suddenly thrown into the river along with the rest of humanity and most strangely that the river has changed its course, from the ocean to the source. And this was the genesis of Amorphous — The Zero Moment.”

Equally important was the notion of compassion that Aditi emphasised upon referring to how she collaborated with Raw Mango and ThemWork Arts to reach out to the thousands of artistic families that have nearly lost their livelihoods. “I connected with my dance company, and together, we decided to look at our past production, Within which was an interplay between brutality and humanity and using footage and music and the central concept of Within, we made six short films that were an interplay of freedom and confinement, lockdown and expansion.”

The beauty of Aditi’s talk was that it was invigorating for a creative person to not merely appreciate the mind of an intelligent artiste like Aditi but also find within it, inspirations aplenty to re-look their own dance, through the lens of their own realities that pulses with life as we know now.

Aditi’s most powerful statement was: “My dance is bursting through my bones but stopping at my skin. But that is my reality and yet there are myriad ways to conceive art through these very difficult times.”

This session was moderated by Kathak dancer, Shivangi Dake of Apsaras Arts.

Up next 

Light Design for Bharatanatyam by Gyan Dev Singh and Appreciation of Music and Poetry for Dance by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, tomorrow September 10, 4.30 and 5.30pm (IST)

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