Performance & Arts

Bharatanatyam meets the Bard

NINE A5 flyer final 1

On Sunday I went to see ‘Nine’ in which the nine emotions of traditional Bharatanatyam dance are explored as they appear in Shakespeare’s plays. I wrote to A.S.I.A founder about my experience

I loved Nine… I often say, that everyone who seeks in Shakespeare finds something new, but in this case it was more Shakespeare being given something new by the dance. I thought the ‘character dance’ of Malvolio was worth a million lines, but then the delivery of his lines echoed the dance so perfectly I felt that there was complete harmony and transference of the written play to the embodied dance-play to the audience. In general I really enjoyed the way layers of interpretation and framing were used to peek into Shakespeare and into Bharatanatyam, one looking through the other and reflecting the other – the way you emphasised this by having doubles of Titania for example dancing and speaking her disgust was so illuminating, making Shakespeare speak a new language that both underlines the universality of his psychological insight & appeal, and positions his foreign art at a distance to be critiqued and re-interpreted by the Indian gaze. That your Wise Puck personified that Indian, Bharatanatyam gaze speaking directly to the audience and inviting us to follow him/her in creating a Bharatanatyam interpretation of Shakespeare made it a wonderfully warm experience, with a sense of complicity for the audience. I was very interested in the decision to dress Lady Macbeth in a traditional Scottish-style costume, NOT to have her dance, and to have Puck stand with her as a doctor. This moment felt like a playful shout-back to the colonial, orientalising gaze which has constructed Indian cultures as deviant or pathological from the point of view of ‘the West’.

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