DanceDramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Reflections of an Indian Dancer – Kala Sangam, Bradford

Reviewer: Margaret Hooper

Dancer and Writer: Sooraj Subramaniam

Director and Choreographer: Balbir Singh

Dramaturgy: Dan Mallaghan

Twenty-four hours after Bradford wins its bid for City of Culture 2025, we see one of the reasons why; Kala Sangam is the home of Indian dance in Bradford and tonight a world premiere of Reflections of an Indian Dancer is being played to its packed house.

As the audience enters, the sole performer, Sooraj Subramaniam, prepares for the stage: an ironing board with a steaming iron, a small mirror-adorned dressing table, and a yoga mat create Subramaniam’s dressing room. He irons his costume, stretches and begins to go over his moves. Calls counting down the time until he appears on stage come over a tanoy; his rehearsal becomes our show.

Lilting spoken word fills the air where music might have gone. We hear instructions from when our performer was a boy of six, the earliest instances of learning a vocabulary that would see him eventually leave a country he loves: India. As we learn more, rhythmic words drum a beat and Subramaniam begins to perform Bharatanatyam – a solo, storytelling dance from the south of India.

We learn that the dance should be crisp, clear, articulate, and it is. The certain yet fluid movements show Subramaniam’s skills and training. The direction of Balbir Singh and dramaturgy of Dan Mallaghan give us a narrative thread and incorporate the use of recorded spoken word. A diverse audience is given the tools to understand classical Indian dance in a way that unites rather than divides us.

The piece takes us through three styles of classical Indian dance, different techniques guiding us through another chapter of Subramaniam’s life. Stories interweave from India’s heritage, to Subramaniam’s personal life, but we are left wanting at times; the narrative would benefit from further insight here to develop a greater understanding of those key moments in our protagonist’s journey.

The final call is heard over the tanoy; Subramaniam prepares to leave his dressing room and enter a stage which is bathed in a rich orange; he gives his opening dance of the evening as our closing piece. The final dance brims with an understanding between audience and performer as Subramaniam unleashes the beauty and power of his dancing.

Reviewed on 1st June 2022.

The Reviews Hub Score

An inspiring performance

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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