Choreographer: Urja Desai Thakore
In Gujarat, they celebrate the winter solstice with a huge festival of kites: flying, fighting; whatever you can do with a kite, they do it. Pagrav Dance Company have turned the festival into an hour long dance and mime piece, with kite strings real and imaginary, a quartet of musicians on stage, chanting, fighting… and kite flying.
Pagrav means ‘the sound of feet’, and choreographer Uria Desai Thakore uses slapping and stamping as an addition to the drums and flute and zither (a santoor, in fact) that accompanies four dancers. Not just accompanies – but mingles with, confronts. The dancers are engaged in constant combat, with each other and with the musicians, until everything resolves into a beautifully co-operative ensemble dance. It’s a good moment, a harmonic resolution to the slightly spiteful conflicts that went before.
The kite-flying is mimed, but mimed really forcefully. The soaring and turns are well shown, the occasional triumphs and frequent despair as the kite wins its battle or crashes to earth, which seems to happen a lot. But they make another kite, throw it up into the air, watch it soar. Trying to keep the kite up while negotiating a crowd, weaving strings in and out of legs, getting tangled and untangled, those movements make up the first half of the piece, and then the ensemble are flyers and kites, soaring, free, beautiful. The stage is bare apart from six orange kite strings stretched across its width, and there is no colour apart from the orange shalwar kameez of the performers, but the whirling orange sparkles and fills the stage really nicely.
The hour-long piece is lovely to watch, crystal clear in its mime, intriguing in the chanting and integrated music. Maybe a bit repetitive, maybe spending a bit too long establishing the kite making? And the male dancer who presents the chief kite flyer is a brat who keeps stealing girls’ kites, though that’s part of the story not a criticism. But still, leave their kites alone! Bad kite flyer!
A beautiful presentation of a thrilling cultural event, with intense rhythm, elegant movement, striking colour, and the power to take the audience to a Gujarati festival, eager to enter their own kites into what must be a whirling chaos of flying objects.
Runs until 19 November 2021