Aditi Mangaldas talks about her new production, “Within”, to be premiered this Friday in New Delhi

Heinous crimes against women, children, oppressed members of society, dominate headlines. Against the backdrop of anger that seems is the prevailing emotion across the spectrum of society, Aditi Mangaldas, founder of the Drishtikon Dance Foundation, has come up with a new production that explores both the highest and lowest the human spirit can reach.

The thought process began with the turmoil visible in society around her, says Aditi — “These brutish things that were happening.” She began studying relationships enshrined in mythology. “The first thing we started to look at was Shiva-Shakti. Then there was the story of Brahma desiring his daughter. But these were stories we revisited also in connection with social turmoil. It compelled me to start seeing the brutality in these relationships.”

However, as the work developed into the production “Within”, to be premiered this Friday in New Delhi, the mythological stories became the “subterranean stream that feeds the work,” says Aditi. “You don’t see any Shiva, Shakti or any x-y-z social issue. I felt the trajectory should be within.”

Aditi, a renowned disciple of veterans Kumudini Lakhia and Birju Maharaj, makes a strong distinction between her two creative genres — Contemporary choreography based on Kathak and the conventionally recognised classical Kathak. Here too, she has divided the performance into two sections of approximately 40 minutes each, separated by an interval. The first section, which uses Contemporary choreography, is called “Knotted” while the second is “Unwrapped”.

The production investigates the poles of “brutality and humanity, masculinity and feminity, good and bad” which are in a “constant half-embrace within us,” says the choreographer, who will perform along with the other dancers in the company.

While the first part is perhaps aimed at rattling viewers out of their complacency, in the tradition of contemporary theatre, Aditi does not want to end on a dark note. Therefore the inspiration for the second portion is “this amazing image”, a Siddha sculpture. Looking up at it you see the sky, she explains. “I’m a positive person so I did end with that.” She doesn’t, however, want people to expect the show to be a “pretty-pretty” dance recital.

Audiences for classical dance are usually a niche section of society. The kind of public drawn here is not equivalent in size, say, to that attracted by a popular play production. To draw more viewers, Aditi believes it is first of all the responsibility of the artist to “put out content that is challenging for the audience, that is not going to be taken for granted,” but adds, “Whether they like it or not is a different issue.”

Secondly, the artist has to be helped by the information media to help her reach the public, she says. And thirdly, the responsibility rests with either the venues or the sponsoring bodies to build a reputation for offering quality work, or work of a particular type. “Right now,” says Aditi, speaking of the Capital, “anyone can book any venue, but, say you get an invitation from NCPA (the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai), you’ll know some programming has gone into it.” Thus she says, the artist, the media and the venue or organiser have to make an effort to give the public quality programming.

“Within” is the fifth production of the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company over the past seven-and-a-half years. “Timeless”, “Uncharted Seas”, “Immersed” and “Now Is” were the earlier ones. “We’re very careful not to just churn out something for the sake of it,” she says, saying, although they continuously produce small pieces, a full-length production can easily take two years from conception to performance.

The titles are all rather obscure, and all in English. Does it help or hinder her in reaching out? “I have to question myself on that, but the general reason is that I think in English. Although I speak Hindi and Gujarati, as soon as there is any intellectual or emotional process my thinking turns to English,” she says.

The poetry used is however not restricted to English. “Within” features sung verses of Kabir and Hazrat Shah Niaz among others.

Care to look within? Just step out to Kamani auditorium this weekend.

“Within”

Concept and Choreography: Aditi Mangaldas

Mentor: Morag Deyes

Stage Design: Manish Kansara

Light Design: Fabiana Piccioli

‘Knotted’

Music Composition: Ish Shehrawat + diFfuSed beats (Sound Reasons)

Costume Design: Kimie Nakano

Script: Vani Subramanian

‘Unwrapped’

Music Composition: Mahesh Vinayakram

Also featuring “Aajra din dooba…” (original composition and lyrics by Pandit Kumar

Gandharva)

September 13, 14, 15, Kamani auditorium, 7.30 p.m.

Donor passes of Rs.100, 200, 300 and 450 available at www.bookmyshow.com and at the venue on show days from 5.30 p.m. Entry for 8 years and above.