A Vyuti Dance Company presentation, Questioning Frontality/Changing Body, as the title suggests, “questions the singular front and challenges the accepted notions of classical Indian aesthetics that restrict the movement of a pregnant woman and the performative display of a pregnant body”. The performance is taking place at Shoonya — Centre for Art and Somatic Practices today. Previously unseen in Bharatanatyam, the elements of physical touch, lifts, floorwork and multiple viewing points for the audience are among the highlights of the show.
“Over the past months, I have been discouraged from dancing, as it may harm me and my baby. When I spoke to other dancers who are either pregnant now or have been in the past, I realised how pervasive this stigma is and how dancers are riddled with guilt, shame and fear, either by family members, friends or sometimes even by doctors, who come from conventional school of thought. The primary goal of this performance, therefore, is to give dancers the freedom to embark on motherhood the way they want,” explains Aranyani, who is also the artistic director of Vyuti.
Thematically, the piece doesn’t represent pregnancy. “In fact, the narrative bit in the performance is about conversations between sakhis (friends). The idea of pregnancy is woven in it, of course, but it is done in a very subtle manner,” she says, adding, “It is a Bharatanatyam dance performance that experiments with contemporary elements, while remaining faithful to traditional forms. In terms of music also, original Carnatic vocals stay prominent through the piece, but there is a modern twist in them.” The other performers in the show are Tony Aloysius Pius, Preeja Mahendran, Shruti Suresh, Poorna Hariharan, Prathiba Sathyavannan, Sibyl Sunitha and Deepta Seshadri.
The nuances of the performance
By ‘questioning’ the idea of a singular front, the piece attempts to resist the post-colonial re-imagination of Bharatanatyam, and instead acknowledges its socio-political history. Meanwhile, the ‘changing body’ part is the result of Aranyani’s own pregnancy, and her experience with it as a dancer, choreographer and performer.