New Delhi: Bharatanatyam dancer Geeta Chandran says she drew from her experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown to create ”contemplative” pieces with the help of a live orchestra for her upcoming programme here.
Titled ‘In Search for Infinity’, the show will be held at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, on May 21.
”This is a special show for me,” said Chandran, adding that the showcase was an attempt to put out some of the selected pieces she worked upon during the pandemic-induced lockdown in 2020.
”There was a peculiar sense of mind in which all of this was created. We couldn’t work together, it was all done in isolation. A lot of work was very contemplative and looking inwards largely.
”Looking for metaphors which would fit the time we were in, trying to bring out the whole situation we were in and at the same time, looking for hope. The work had a different kind of approach and feel to it, so I thought I should share that with a live orchestra so that I can bring out that emotive quality with the frame of mind with which it was created,” the Delhi-based artiste told PTI in an interview.
Chandran said the programme is also an acknowledgment of musicians — Carnatic vocalist K. Venkateswaran and mridangam artiste Manohar Balatchandirane — who traveled with her throughout the pandemic.
”We worked sometimes online over lots of Zoom calls and whenever there was a window we would meet up wearing masks. It’s a journey which we have all traveled together – me and the musicians.
”That’s also acknowledging the partnership in this journey, helping me through that time. I’m really looking forward to doing this live on stage with musicians. You seem to value everything so much more now. Today, it’s such a special thing to dance to live music and an audience,” she added.
The roughly 90 minute-long showcase will open with prominent Hindi poet Jaishankar Prasad’s ‘Beeti Vibhavari Jaag Ri’ with translation by historian Romila Thapar.
The Padma Shri recipient said she used the poem, which talks about the night is over, as a metaphor to say ”everything is behind us and we can look forward to some hope”. There will also be a dance piece invoking 16th-century Hindu devotional poet Surdas’ literary work where Yashoda tells the story of ‘Ramayana’ to Krishna, which is also inspired by the dancer’s narrations to her then four-year-old grandson.
”This series of work reflects a lot of other emotions that played on me at that time (lockdown) — ‘bhakti’, ‘vaatsalya’, philosophy, inclusiveness, etc. Dance has become such a large corpus of work for me. It’s a nice phase to be in where old, new and everything (culminate).
”And this experience of these last two and a half years has changed us all, as artistes, our attitudes, even the way we approach the arts. I hope all that reflects in the programme,” added Chandran, who started training for Bharatanatyam when she was five.
The 60-year-old dancer, also founder-president of cultural organization Natya Vriksha, said it was unfortunate that the pedagogy of dance has been limited to performance, which becomes ”a very myopic understanding of this beautiful tool”.
”We pushed the frontiers of the style… It’s been my endeavor in my own work in addition to the traditional repertoire or ‘Margam’ (path) which I teach. But with that I always had the curiosity to push the frontiers of the style and see what is possible.
”I don’t like to be pushed into a slot and say ‘this is what she does’… Artistic expression can include subjects that matter,” Chandran said, adding that she has used the arts to shine a light on issues such as environment, female foeticide, and recently, the concept of ‘Anekantavada’ from Jain philosophy which talks about multiple realities.