Swadesh – Production Diary 3

In January 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 outlines the process of working through the lighting, stage design, scripting and costumes for Swadesh.

Professional dancers notoriously have hectic travel and rehearsal schedules.  To get Mythili, Arushi and Monisa in one place for two days was a huge achievement in itself.  So we’re in Delhi, have completed a huge chunk of choreography, but with no musical ensemble.  We have no recordings to work with either.  So how do we settle on the music and more importantly record something so each of them can continue to practice once they leave Delhi?  Easy!  A combination of an internet search, one of Madhup Mudgal’s compositions, the dancers singing themselves and garage band does the job!

After much thought and deliberation, we finally settle on a sequence of music and songs which will form the final piece of Swadesh.  The dancers sit around Mythili’s laptop and record the bits they need to sing themselves.  Mythili is a garage band wizard and within minutes we have a rough cut for a final piece in place!  This recording will also be shared with the music ensemble for them to learn and listen to prior to our rehearsals in Liverpool.   The dancers also sing and record a few dance phrases for each other on their phones so they can listen on the go!

Laptop recording

Laptop recording

Mythili, Monisa and Arushi capture rhythmic phrases on their mobiles to practice on the go!

Mythili, Monisa and Arushi capture rhythmic phrases on their mobiles to practice on the go!

Next, we work on the scripting of Swadesh.  We quickly realize that there are million different ideas we could include in the script.  Each dancer has so many personal thoughts and experiences of India they want to share through their piece.  Akhila works hard to distil each dancer’s vision down to one core idea which will need to fit into the overall theme of Swadesh as well.

We brainstorm together to find various elements could we bring into the script to enhance the storytelling – poetry, imagery, and even props.  The idea of props starts off an interesting discussion.  Are there any objects we could use which would serve as a visual representation of each dancer’s thoughts and might also serve as an anchor?  Without giving away too much here, we hone in on a garland for Mythili, a smoke lantern for Arushi and a damaru for Monisa.

Akhila capturing every single idea!

Akhila capturing every single idea!

For costumes we are all very keen to have each dancer wear a costume particular to their own dance style.  However for the concluding piece we want everyone in white.  India is incredibly diverse and very colourful.  If you mix all colours, you get white.  We all loved the idea of white symbolising that unity in diversity and also spirituality – two concepts which form such an important part of India and Indian culture and which will both be explored extensively in Swadesh.

Dancers deciding on colour scheme and style of costume

Dancers deciding on colour scheme and style of costume

See Swadesh in Liverpool at The Capstone Theatre on Friday 7th March and in London at Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan on March 8th.

Read Production Diary 1 and Production Diary 2 for further insight into the production, and take a look at Swadesh In Pictures to get a feel for the final production.

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