Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas dances within walls for a purpose

An inanimate golden frame on an immaculate white wall suddenly comes alive as Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas's face turns into a canvas of emotions. Her hands, torso and eyes traverse the moods of the popular Puriya Dhanashree khayal of Pt. Kumar Gandharva, ‘Aajra Din Dooba.’ Vocalist Faraz Ahmed and tabla artiste Mohit Gangani convey the beauty of the lyrics through melody and rhythm.

Although the dynamics of a dance piece are expressed through the physical language of choreography, most often its essence is conveyed neither by narrative nor movements, but by the body of the dancer.

‘Enframed,’ is part of a series of short films, ‘Within...From Within,’ created by Aditi Mangaldas with well-known designer Sanjay Garg of the label Raw Mango and Teamwork Arts.

The mask that has become a must during the pandemic turns into a prop in ‘Wrapped’, which features dancers with their faces covered in cloth. The protective gear gains a deeper meaning in this performance of how you could hide your face from the world yet you are answerable to yourself.

“The effort is to explore the art’s ability to heal and reach out. The films have been made to raise funds for 150 performing artistes, who have been struggling to make ends meet during the lockdown. They will receive Rs. 15,000 for three months. But my objective was not just to make an appeal for donation, but to offer an artistic experience through these short films,” says Aditi.

Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas dances within walls for a purpose

The six films — ‘Entwined,’ ‘Meltdown,’ ‘Enframed,’ ‘Wrapped,’ ‘Unravel’ and ‘Empassion’ — bring together the original work ‘Within’ by Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company, and captures the dancers’ creative impulses in the confines of their homes.

“It has not been easy building morale of the many youngsters in my team in this most challenging time. But we are in it together. We are constantly finding ways to not lose hope by keeping the creative spirit high,” says the dancer, whose cutting edge choreographic works doesn’t reject tradition even while moving away from the familiar.

Though the films explore diverse human expressions, the connecting feature among them is chakkar, the soul of Kathak. As vigorous whirls and unhurried turns expose our emotional state, you realise what it means to dance in the time of COVID-19.

Connecting thread

Sanjay Garg, whose design philosophy draws liberally from Indian cultural motifs, sees this fashion intervention in performing arts as the need for an easy exchange between arts to tide over this traumatic phase. Clothes, choreography and composition make up the cultural fabric that sustains the heritage of the country. This aspect has been put to good use in this collaboration.

“In the time of physical distancing arts have to find a new intimacy. We have to become each other’s support system even as we grapple with the reality of performing within the walls of the home or studio or in digital spaces,” says Aditi, wondering what kind of transformation the art will once again go through as it did when moving from temples and courts to proscenium.

Artistes have already begun to adapt to the change by re-imagining the presentation technique and approach. Over the past few years, group choreography and dance dramas have been gaining prominence, now solo shows would seem a safer option.

“But the most disturbing outcome is many folk and supporting artistes and backstage staff being pushed to the brink because of cancellation of rehearsals, major festivals and regular performances. Isolation and uncertainty have further added to their misery. More than ever, it is during such distressing moments that I draw strength from the hard training and life lessons imbibed from legendary gurus,” says Aditi.

The films can be viewed on Drishtikon Dance Foundation’s instagram.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 11:06:21 AM |

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