Choreographic process: Sanjukta Wagh
Duration: 00:09:47; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 27.813; Saturation: 0.056; Lightness: 0.538; Volume: 0.243; Cuts per Minute: 0.102
Summary: The Gati Summer Dance Residency 2012 offered five emerging choreographers an opportunity to work with experienced mentors in the field of dance, theatre and sound design. It was held in New Delhi, from 21st April to 22nd June 2012. During the nine weeks, the residents developed their own individual choreographic works. The resident choreographers came from multifarious performance backgrounds including Contemporary dance, Kathak, Manipuri, Bharatanatyam as well as Theatre. This year's residents were Divya Vibha Sharma (Bombay), Rakesh Mps (Bangalore), Sanjukta Wagh (Bombay), Debanjali Biswas (Kolkata) and Sunitha (Bangalore). The mentors were theatre director Sankar Venketeshwaran from Kerala, German choreographers Susanne Linke and Urs Dietrich, and Swiss sound artist POL. The Residency concluded with the final showcase of the residents' works on 21st and 22nd June 2012, at Sri Ram Centre, New Delhi.
Arushi Singh’s research was analyzing the choreographic process of each dancer at this year’s Residency. It involved intensively documenting each mentor’s class and rehearsal process of the residents, supported with continued conversations with the residents and mentors. It has led her to shed light on the choreographic journey of each resident including their pre-expressivities, the preliminary ideas for the piece they wanted to develop, the process of developing their movement vocabulary which moved in and out of methods that they already were trained in as well as those they inculcated from collaborative work with mentors and fellow residents, to the very end of finalizing their pieces by engaging in other aspects of their performance such as props and sound.
Sanjukta’s story is one that depicts a cyclical evolution in a dancer’s journey, to make the dance she does, her own. She is originally trained in Kathak, under Guru Rajashree Shirke. While working as a professional performer and choreographer of Kathak, Sanjukta felt an estrangement with the form’s bounded nature. However, when she went to Trinity Laban School in London for a year to learn Contemporary dance, she saw how Kathak was being distorted into a ‘costumed’ version. From thereon, she took it upon herself to reconnect with and rediscover Kathak, all over again.
The recitation of the Kavitt)
A unique feature of Kathak is the Kavitt or recitation of poem by the dancer. The poem is usually set to a time cycle, as the dancer performs movement that echo the meaning of the poem. In this case, the difference lies in not only the choice of language of the recitation i.e. English. The gestures used while reciting Joy Harjo’s poem, She had some horses, do not echo the precise meaning of each unit of the poem. In fact, in order to metonymically capture the essence of the physical attributes of Putana as a breast-giver and her volatile relationship with Krishna she uses the image from the Bhagwata Purana and the text of Mythologies 1 by A.K Ramanujan, respectively, to generate gestures. Like the Harjo poem, there are various oppositions inherent in Ramanujan’s poem as well: ebb and flow, milk and venom, terror and baby face, deadly mother, happy demon, and life and death. For e.g. As she recites the Harjo poem which tells the story of a woman’s oppositional relationship with her horses, ‘the very same horses she loved as well as hated’, she uses the hamsasya mudra to depict the mountainous breasts and the flow of life through the flow of venom-filled milk. In another instance, at the beginning of the recitation, Sanjukta signifies the above oppositions using the hamsasya in one hand and the prana mudra in the other, placed closely near the center of the chest and alternately moves them at equal intervals. It depicts the dynamics inherent in the flow of life between the two hands.
krishna nee begane baro
Kathak’s style is usually lyrical and romantic, showcasing situations and moods of love, with the major protagonist being Krishna. The Raslila is an interpretative dance (containing gestures and facial expressions) on Radha and Krishna. Its usually a solo dance and mime where the dancer through poses alternates between lover and beloved interpolated with pure dance providing a vivid climax to each dramatic theme. There are also mimetic dance pieces capturing the relationship of baby Krishna and his mother Yashoda. Sanjukta subverts the association that Kathak has with the above thematic by choosing to work on the tainted foster mother of Krishna. Moreover, in order to challenge, question and probe into the comfort or discomfort zones of the form, she takes on the most powerful patriarchal symbol of Krishna and overturns it. This is illustrated in the following- Sanjukta sits cross-legged on the floor and suddenly collapses backwards in that very position. In between the legs rises the mayura hasta denoting Krishna. While talking about the development of this phrase she says- “At a point in my studio I noticed my t shirt which had a face and a peacock feather. Strange coincidence. I had never noticed the connection between Putana and Krishna. Out came the mayura hasta almost instantly and I began to play.” The body sequence enacting Krishna was replaced with one gesture, which emerged almost symbolically from between the legs of Putana. One hears the strain of the ghungroo on the sound scape. The sound of the ghungroo as well as the mayura hasta denoting Krishna is linked to the associative memory of the Kathak repertoire. However, the above phrase is not lyrical and romantic anymore. It intends to create a discomfort that Sanjukta feels she needs to convey to narrate the abomination that Putana succumbed to when the ‘Terror with a baby face’ sucked her life away.
By deciding to sit on the floor, Sanjukta disrupts the basic vertical stance of Kathak called the Samabhanga. Usually the basic standing pose includes the right arm raised vertically above the head and the left arm extended horizontally. One foot is crossed behind the other. The head moves rhythmically with multifarious neck movements while the eyes exhibit sthayi drishti (steady glances). The hands are ordinarily in arala. However, for this piece she finds a strong grounding with the left leg down on the floor while sitting. The right leg is lifted up. Her right hand rests on the knee. She bends her back and leans forward with her face peering out partially from behind the hand. This phrase involves exploring different ways of sitting wherein the rendering of bhava or sentiment in vivid rhythmic pantomime, with gestures, postures and a strong vertical gait (of Kathak) is left off for choosing to be on the floor. The energy of the body is concentrated in between the hand supported by the legs and the eyes (delivered through sthayi drishti and raised eyebrows). It highlights the realization of a marginal character that is ‘hidden’ within her body.
When Sanjukta stands, she utilizes the technique of body posturing from Kathakali. She takes a square stance, which is traditionally called the Thane Nilkal. In this stance, the knees are bent and feet set wide apart with the toes resting on the ground. In Kathak, one way that a dancer moves across space is by executing the chakkar bhramari or quicksilver footwork executed on heel. It is accompanied by constant spinning which is visually exciting for its pace and tempo along with strong abstract visually beautiful gaits or walks that gives the dance its peculiar fluidity. However, Sanjukta incorporates within the square stance, the manner of stepping and beating the heels and raising the feet while moving in space as applied in Kathakali. This creates a consciousness of Putana’s presence- the demon’s monumental physicality and grounded strength, within Sanjukta’s body.
Bhava Batana in Kathak involves the dancer being seated and enacting abhinaya (facial expressions). Sanjukta uses abhinaya of the eyes and the face from the principles of Kathakali. Kathakali gives significant importance to the unique quality of Nritta Drishti i.e. the abhinaya of the eyes, wherein the eyeballs are rolled upward, downward, from side-side in circle and diagonal movement according to required sentiment. The eyes lead the expression generated in the facial muscles and create an overall impression of a sentiment.
Set to the Kannada padam – Krishna nee begane baro, Sanjukta starts moving her head side to side lightly. Her eyes slowly move in pralokita. Her neck movement steadily becomes more vigorous as she administers parivahita as well as dhuta. This is accompanied with eyes following the direction of the neck movement in alokita. It helps in creating the terrifying expression with the sucking, which is based on playing with the following line from Mythologies 1-‘O Terror with a baby face, Suck me dry, Drink my venom, Renew my breath.’