I just celebrated my twenty years in India last October and designed a performance for the occasion: ‘What is dance?’ As I was writing the text for the brochure of the show, looking back at this most amazing journey, I realised that if I had to choose one word to encapsulate the essence of this period, transparency would be the one; transparency to my own self, my emotions and inner colours, accepting my flaws and talents. I have been opening up to new ways of dancing, of being, as my artistic path merged with my spiritual path, learning to love myself as I am.
India has been the ideal terrain for such alchemy… and the last four years have brought a new and distinct flavour to my awareness.
The beginning of 2010 was a phase where I wanted to address an issue bothering me for a long time, the relationship between romantic love, sexuality and spiritual growth. This process led me to work on a very unusual production: ‘O Sathi Re’. With ‘O Sathi Re’, I wanted to assess, for myself, the importance of romantic love on my spiritual path. The beauty and challenge of that production was that I decided to do it in collaboration with someone who became my partner for a beautiful, enriching and challenging journey of a few months.
This is how I had expressed my intent for the piece:
“In ‘O Saathi Re’, I wanted to answer and heal for myself questions about romantic love. ‘O Saathi Re’ came at a time of great upheaval, of great understanding of myself through the angle of relationships. I was ready to move on, to heal questions of deserving and being independent and free… to let go of heavy patterns of the past, to let go of guilt. M appeared from nowhere, magically, as the obvious other, the perfect vibration with whom I wanted to share my song of love, for myself, for the universe.”
The performance was one of those unforgettable magical instances. We decided to perform on my terrace, in total surrender to the sky, the wind and to space, letting ourselves flow, guided by music and energy and expressing through words and movement. M asked me questions related to her fears, her dreams, her doubts about allowing herself to open her body, mind and soul to someone else. I responded to them through gestures or words, through movements and sounds, which in return stimulated new energies in M to be expressed to me, to herself, to the Universe.
What was fantastic was that I felt that we were tapping directly into material of the Universe on relationships, on trust, on togetherness, on expectations and promises. I really felt that we were asking questions and were channelling answers, not just for the both of us, but for humankind. As many members of the audience shared after the show, this performance opened a platform to connect romance with spirit, with simplicity and humility, as everyone was made to remember their own intimate stories, their personal romantic universes, while the performance was happening. Was this love? Romantic love? Universal love? I can hear someone mutter: “unconditional love…”
With this piece, I recollected and understood that throughout my life, I had to be deeply centered within myself to be truly able to relate. As if I could truly understand the other, accept the other, only when I was completely myself, deeply connected to my core, transparent to myself. And at the same time, in the reverse direction, the other helped me remember my essence.
Some elements of it got developed in ‘Bija’, the next year, in 2011. This was my intent then:
“In ‘Bija – the seed’, painting and movement meet to transcend my struggle with dependence and independence. After a turbulent period of transitions: end of relationships, shifting of spaces, both physical and emotional, I felt the need to reassert the intent of my life. I therefore started to connect to the new energies and directions opening up for me in this new beginning, like new seeds.
A seed as an energy point, a bindu of all potentials, the centre, the core of a new Universe, after many and before many more. A sound as the seed of the matter, like the bija mantras as vocal expressions of the vibrations of the chakras, travelling through the various layers and aspects of the self.
This piece is an exploration of these new spaces: dialogues of aloneness and togetherness, of symbiosis and independence, of form and energy, of colour and movement, of love and spirit.
It is also a brighter version of Eros and Psyche, romance meeting spirituality, the story of a flower and a butterfly.”
What had happened in between the two shows?
I had broken up with my partner but was left with beauty and gratitude and with seeds of a new me, writing and painting. In that one year, I had experienced communion and separation, support and disappointment, trust and betrayal. I released layers and layers of guilt, I found a middle path, grounded myself in dispassion and could express this new me through ‘Bija’.
‘Bija’ was born as a pearl of wisdom and stillness out of a very hectic period. ‘Bija’ helped me heal difficult memories and find a new lightness of being, gradually embracing the Air element within me, unpredictable and playful. I was ready for adventure.
After these two duets with female dancers, 2012 opened the way to two new duets with male partners this time. ‘Dharma’, created for the Prakriti Excellence in Contemporary Dance Awards in Chennai in August of that year, was the expression of my overcoming of dualities, in a flow of oneness. Passionate but asexual, in dialogues of the Ego-mind with the Self, this duet has been revisited many times over the last two years. And just a few months old, a second duet with a male partner, ‘Shiv Shakti’, appears to me, as I am writing, as a mirror to ‘Dharma’.
Filled with desire, longing and sexual tension, ‘Shiv Shakti’, designed for the ‘Do it Yourself DIY day’ organised by Subhadra Kamath, early November 2014, is a tribute to acknowledge the masculine and the feminine within. We are so blessed as dancers to be able to tap into the many shades of existence: being flowing, circular and graceful one moment to transform into a strong, grounded and solid form the next. As Devdutt Pattanaik elaborates in his introduction to ‘Shikhandi’, fluidity is a very rich and exciting quality. Embracing the extremes is indeed for me the very pulsation of life. ‘Tala’, the reference to rhythm in Indian classical music is etymologically derived from the union of the dances of Shiva and Parvati, respectively ‘Tandavam’ and ‘Lasyam’.
As a dancer, I feel like a messenger of Love, a Sufi rooted in unity. Transcending the inner and the outer, as shy as the Moon, as radiant as the Sun, accepting myself and the Other, recognising the Other in my Self, I keep on unveiling new aspects, new layers. As each moment surfaces, in the multifaceted dance of life, I can be transparent to my own fluidity.
Pic Source: ‘In Step by Gilles Chuyen’, Facebook