FRIDAY REVIEW

‘Learning is a never-ending process’

Daksha Seth

Daksha Seth  





I have taken elements of traditional dance and combined them with modern music and movements. I guess you can call it physical theatre where the inspiration is essentially Indian.





She has worked hard to create a niche for herself in the field of dance. Trained in Kathak under Kumudini Lakhia, Chhau under Krishna Chandra Naik and a variety of other Indian dance forms, Daksha Seth has now created a dance language of her own which is physical, dynamic and energetic; where the body becomes a tool for communication.

Early years…

I was born into a Gujarati business family which had nothing to do with the performing arts. Dance was something inborn in me. My parents believed in letting their children choose their own course in life. So when my mother heard that there was a Kathak teacher in town (Kumudini), she enrolled me in her class. I was 13 then.

Kathak training…

Kumudini Lakhia was my guide, friend and mother. I trained under her for 18 years and was a principal dancer in her troupe. I travelled across the world with her. Apart from Kumudini, I trained under Birju Maharaj and Mohan Rao Kalyanpurkar.

Chau, Kalaripayattu and Malkhamb…

To me, learning is a never-ending process and learning a new dance form can only help me grow as a dancer. I learnt Mayurbhanj Chau in 1982 from Krishna Chandra Naik. Chhau is a magnetic dance form which has sinuous and fluid body movements. When I started doing Chhau, I became interested in martial art forms as well. And then I came across a Kalaripayattu performance by Krishnadas. The flexibility of the performers caught my eye. I then trained in Kalaripayattu at C.V.N. Kalari with Govidan Kutty Nair and his son Sathya Narayan. I also trained in Malkhamb.

Moving towards contemporary dance…

Contemporary dance did not happen overnight, it was gradual. I began my dance career by creating new pieces in the traditional format in Kathak and then Chhau, which I would perform solo. My stay at Vrindavan, culminated in a composition called ‘Ashtayam’ which was an hour and a half long. ‘Ashtayam’ remains precious to me since it was a dance offering to Krishna rather than a performance, and it took three years to create. It was while I was in Vrindavan that I learnt about the Vedas. I was moved by the poetry in the Vedas and the power of the language used. In fact, that was how my first contemporary dance piece, ‘Yagna,’ came to be. It was premiered in London, at the Vivarta Festival. After hearing about the London performance, the Department of Culture, Government of India, invited me and my troupe to perform in Delhi. ‘Yagna’ was also recreated in Malayalam. Litterateur Paul Zachariah translated the script from Sanskrit to Malayalam and I performed it in Kerala.

My other productions…

After ‘Yagna’ came ‘Search for My Tongue,’ a dance production based on a poem by Sujata Bhatt, about an Asian youth raised in the West who is caught between two cultures. It was produced for YUVA, a British dance company, and was initially called ‘Tongues United.’ We then revised the piece and called it ‘Search for My Tongue’ and performed it in India. ‘Sarpagati,’ another piece I choreographed, was inspired by snake worship and the rituals associated with it; ‘BhuKham’ celebrates the human spirit. There are various other works as well. We do a lot of research before we embark on a project. Take ‘Yagna’ for instance, I delved deep into Vedic literature. Then I selected different mantras and researched the meaning behind them. Doing research is exciting.

My take on choreography…

I transform what I have learnt into a new form; a style of my own. My productions combine dance, acrobatics, martial art and original music specifically created for dance. I have taken elements of traditional dance and combined them with modern music, clothes and movements. I guess you can call it physical theatre where the inspiration is essentially Indian. It has evolved from my training in various dance forms.

Themes that inspire me…

Anything can inspire me. I am a voracious reader but am choosy about the kind of literature I read. It’s mostly heavy literature that I indulge in. That’s how ‘Yagna’ and ‘Search for My Tongue’ came to be. In ‘Search for My Tongue,’ the poet’s journey in life and the way she articulated proved to be my inspiration. ‘BhuKham’ was born when I visited an exhibition called ‘Kham’ (Empty Space) in Delhi. Something about the artist’s use of the brush and colours captivated me. Talks, seminars, books… anything inspires me; it’s not just dance shows and music. The themes are abstract and subject to interpretation. There are no messages behind the theme. I don’t believe in preaching.

What critics have to say…

In 1997, ‘Sarpagati’ was premiered in Mumbai. The audience was shocked as it steered clear of the traditional dance style, especially with interaction between male and female dancers. However, I don’t choose a theme to please the audience. I have always followed my heart and pursued my inspiration’ and have never felt the need to offer proof of my ability and skill to anybody. Criticism affects you only if you are out to impress.

My family’s role…

My family has a major role in my productions. My husband Devissaro is the backbone of my contemporary dance life. He translates my vision into reality. He composes the music and designs the stage and lights, while my son, Tao, helps him with the music. My daughter, Isha, is the principal dancer in the company and assists me with the choreography.

Some memorable performances…

There are many. But one of the performances I cherish is ‘Ashtayam,’ which was part of a temple offering in Vrindavan.

My legacy…

I do hope that Isha and my students take my work forward. The joy of a teacher is when a student branches off and finds his or her own path.

LIZA GEORGE

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