Choreographer: Brinda Guha
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
The least enjoyable part of being an audience member at Kalamandir Dance Company’s urbanJATRA at Dixon Place is reading the production and company blurbs in the program. An attempt to translate visual and physical art forms into the written word will often fall short, minimizing more than enhancing the spectator’s experience.* The work is better without the grandiose claim that it is “creating a new paradigm,” or the arguably false one that it is exploring an “immersive sensibility.”
The most enjoyable part of being an audience member at Kalamandir Dance Company’s urbanJATRA is simply being in the audience. Program notes aside, this production is compelling and unique. A talented company of dancers whose combined training covers multiple cultural traditions and styles of dance tell a loosely narrated personal story—or perhaps more appropriately, a personal exploration of ideas—from the point of view of one female central character. Bringing together bodies in space, spoken word, and projections of both photography (by Francisco Guijarro) and live drawing (Zac Karis), this work flows well, with a continuity befitting a piece that describes itself as circular.
Touching on global women’s rights issues, color theory as a passageway to developing positive human relationships, the mathematics of dance, and Indian concepts of body, spirit, and energy, there is yet a lightness and joy present throughout the performance. Poetry of language, movement, imagery, and music play off of one another, creating constant connection from one moment to the next, regardless of the tangible changes taking place on and off stage. Rupi Kaur’s words, Suheir Hammad’s words, and Brinda Guha’s words are the foundation over which and the umbrella under which urbanJATRA reveals itself to the receptive spectator as having both a clear, definable message and one that is solely dependent on the wiring of the receiver.
Uncomplicated, specific lighting choices enhance the depth of the presentation, and work beautifully in concert with costume design, choreography, and the unified-but-varied musical styles throughout. The main thing to remember when attending Kalamandir Dance Company’s urbanJATRA is to skip the program notes and find your own interpretation of the art. It is even more lovely seen through your own mind.
*This theatre reviewer is aware of the irony of that statement.
Runs until 14 April 2018