Swadesh – Production Diary 2
Earlier this month our Head of Dance Development, Archana Shastri, headed to Delhi to meet with the cast of Swadesh to develop and refine the choreography and ideas that were begun at their last meeting in Chennai last October. Here she rounds up the visit and offers a deeper insight into the production.
Swadesh has come a long way since the last time the team met in Chennai last year. Hundreds of emails, phone calls, audio and video clips have been exchanged back and forth over the last few months covering everything from flights and visa to props and choreography. We meet next in Delhi at the Ghandharva Mahavidyalaya studios for 4 days in the middle of January, on some of the coldest and foggiest days of the season. With scarves, thick socks, shawls, sweaters and hot cups of chai we get going with a long list of things to achieve.
With hectic touring / performance schedules for everyone, it has been extremely difficult to coordinate a rehearsal date, making this time we have together in Delhi extremely precious. There’s so much to do – where do we start? We start off by catching each other up on our progress since the last meeting. Monisa, Arushi and Mythili each share how their choreography and ideas have progressed and we spend quite a bit of time discussing different ways in which we can tie it all together through the script. Akhila teases out some common themes, both concrete and abstract which could be used to link everyone’s ideas together. We get into some pretty deep conversations around what it means to have an attachment to your country. Especially in a country as diverse as India in terms of language, traditions, foods, religion etc., what is it that makes everyone feel as ‘one’? What is that intangible something? How can we articulate and express that feeling? Surely art is the best way of exploring those indescribable thoughts and feelings?
The above questions help us better define the main arc of Swadesh, which also helps us in the choreography of the final piece. We all brainstorm in search of a poem, song or phrase which could form the backbone of the finale piece.
Though a basic structure and some choreography for the finale was complete in October, the dancers had a lot more material to work with now which needed to be incorporated. The dancers spend a considerable amount of time working on the choreography – quite a challenging but fascinating task as they each need to find the best way of making Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Odissi work well together. The rythmic patterns, structure and even the way in which they are able to cover space differ a great deal. Arushi and Monisa found it easy to move in silence, while Mythili found she needed some rhythm or lyrics to move to. She felt that the structured form of Bharatanatyam wasn’t well suited to movements in silence – the movements needed something to latch on to. Monisa found it easy to cover space in a short span of time, whereas Arushi and Mythili especially needed to do huge and sometimes awkward leaps to reach the same point. It was fascinating to watch the dancers work through each movement and phrase over and over again until something clicked.
Next week: Production Diary 3 – costumes, music, script and more!