An extraordinarily nuanced and stirring choreographic work, Songs of Our Sisters, was among the performative offerings at the Kolkata Poetry Confluence, presented at the Triguna Sen Auditorium recently by The Antonym Community of Global Art and Literature. Responding to three poems from the Northeast, written by Mamang Dai, Malsawmi Jacob and Janice Pariat, the dancer-choreographer, Monami Nandy, creates a dance piece in which she imbues every movement and gesture with layered meanings and abundant beauty. Emerging as an impeccable dramaturge, she tells a deeply-felt story of separation, resistance, harmony and hope. And she ensures that her voice, crushing and insistent, is heard clearly.
In what can only be described as an assured handling of a profoundly political subject, Nandy questions the invisible borders that exist between the Northeast and the rest of the eastern states. Touching upon the universal theme of alienation, political and otherwise, she moves between cultures through music and discovers that the same songs about grains, hills, water and sisterhood are sung in different languages. But the women who sing them never get to meet to share their stories. They don’t know about the sufferings that the others have to endure, however similar their struggles may be.
Nandy’s choreography is designed with compelling power as it shifts seamlessly from martial arts and traditional theatrical forms to contemporary movement aesthetics. She dances with abandon, sharing emotions through kinetics and embodied surges of anguish and ecstasy. With immense control over weight and dynamics, she jumps, moves intricately, makes sweeping circles and flashes her eyes, owning the space that she occupies with consummate ease and holding attention with the strength of her restrained energy. The semi-abstraction in the use of rice grains in a clay pot effectively adds textures to the piece, representing a necessity for survival that also becomes a symbol of resistance. It helps to make a pivotal sequence in which the rice, thrown in the air, falls in a steady patter on the silent stage, creating a moment of reckoning.