The many shades of worship
Faint stage lights reveal a dancer’s torso and his measured movements. In what seems like a visual representation of awakening, the lights gradually crystallize to reveal his moving arms and the rest of his body in motion. To the accompaniment of Gurbani, the dancer traverses the space in sparse and repetitive movement patterns, suggesting the idea of worshipful surrender to divinity. This is how Arrival, Vikram Iyengar’s solo, digital dance presentation, co-produced by the American Centre, New Delhi, and Kutumb Foundation, opens. It is inspired by the Bengali saying, ‘jato mot tato poth’ (there are as many paths as there are perspectives), and created for Josh-e-Umang, an online spiritual music and dance festival. Through it, the dancer-choreographer explores the multiple ways in which an individual can be connected with the divine.
A score is created for the work with Gurbani, Sufiana, Baul, Tagore, and indeed, significantly, silence. It negotiates the rich terrain of interrogations on the various possibilities of the relationship between the individual and god, with social issues such as counter-hegemonic reactions to prejudice providing provocations. The thoughts about religion are punctuated by questions and doubt.
Iyengar dwells on the different emotional responses to the power one chooses to genuflect to — veering from the ponderous and devout to teasing, mischievous, flirtatious, irreverent and eventually insistent, like an equal. He uses lengths of fabric in blue, red and yellow to underscore the varied approaches to the quest for deliverance until a moment of intense silence ensues and he draws all the fabrics unto himself. The piece closes memorably with dizzying spins that bring together the fabrics into a serene and transfixing whirlwind of colours, creating a sense of mellow synthesis.
The music for Iyengar’s thoughtful and reflective work is textured and varied, but it lacks an effective ‘through-line’. With an engaging beginning and a tender and beautiful climax, the piece would hang together better with stronger connections segueing the thoughts into one another.