Aditi Mangaldas and her Drishtikon repertory are set to fly to Scotland to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival

It is an opportunity that Aditi Mangaldas, noted Kathak dancer and Contemporary choreographer, and her Drishtikon troupe, are looking forward to with excitement as well as nervousness. As India celebrates its 66th Independence Day this Wednesday, Aditi will be flying to Edinburgh, followed by the other Drishtikon artistes the following day, to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival. Among the world’s most prestigious cultural events, founded in 1947, the EIF features classical music, dance, theatre and opera. Drishtikon will present a double bill programme on August 18 and 19, featuring a segment of classical Kathak (“Uncharted Seas”) and a Contemporary piece (“Timeless”), both choreographed by Aditi. This is the first time, says Aditi, that Indian Contemporary Dance is being included in the festival.

At Drishtikon’s studio tucked inside the snaking lanes of Sainik Farms, the group is working hard on the two choreographic works which have been presented before but have been reworked and improved. In “Uncharted Seas”, Aditi says, “Through the medium of dance, literature, light design, I am trying to evoke the feeling of search.” She quotes J. Krishnamurti, saying, “To lead our lives without fixed points is our greatest challenge.” The light design of “Uncharted Seas” has been done by Dutch light designer Sander Loonen, based in London, who was earlier in India to work with the group. If this work will treat the audience to aspects of poetry by Josh Malihabadi, Rumi and Kabir, then, “Boom! After the interval comes our Contemporary piece,” she says.

Talking about her Contemporary work, she mentions “If you sow a seed from Kathak and water it with contemporary sensibilities…. All are Kathak dancers but we expose ourselves to Kalari, to Yoga so the centre of focus shifts.” Fabiana Piccioli is the light designer of this work, while costumes are by Japanese designer Kime Nakano.

Drishtikon is known for its disciplined work ethics and long days of hard physical work. For the past month, they have been working hard on the festival performance. But now, in the final days before departure, she notes, “One needs to let the body breath, to let the mind breath, and most of all to let the dance breathe.” That’s why the dancers now are working with their Yoga trainer Naveen “to breathe slowly and figure out our physical barriers, attitudinal and emotional barriers.”

In Edinburgh, the group will have one technical rehearsal, a press performance and two public shows — a luxury for dancers used to packing it all into one show. Aditi admits to being continuously amazed by the professionalism displayed by EIF organisers, who even asked her about costumes: their material and what kind of ironing, dry cleaning or refreshing they will need. “They even asked us if we need wardrobe help,” says Aditi. To appreciate this formalised thoughtfulness, you need to picture Indian classical dancers as they iron their own costumes — who else can be trusted with the innumerable pleats?— and hunt for clean corners to lay them out, even as they finalise light cues and put up sets two hours before showtime.

With these peripherals handled in the optimum way then, Drishtikon can expect to give the festival audience a night to remember.