Does abstracting the classical make it contemporary?
Dancer Aditi Mangaldas talks to ADITI DE about her experiments with Kathak. The Hindu Magazine Sunday, Mar 07, 2004 About Us
Kumudini Lakhia, my guru, taught us to keep an open mind. By 1986, I had travelled all over the world with Birju Maharajji's company. Yet, there was something in me that wasn't dancing. That's when I left my gurus to find my own footsteps. My rebellion was against the satellite role of women in traditional Kathak. (Passionately) You cried or were happy because of a man, you were afraid or changed because of a man. That's beautiful, but it had nothing to do with my identity as a person. So, the initial moving out started by looking at literature. I read a Hindi poem by Agyeya that made me feel claustrophobic. Yet, nothing in the traditional Kathak repertoire, with its underlying sringara rasa, could help me to convey that dry emotion. How could I show it? We made a tabla beat of one theka, played over 15 minutes. It was so monotonous that it created a cone around you. I began working with music, costumes, lights, but especially on the attitude. (Thoughtfully) I felt the need to abstract the word to express it. It's a comma that the audience interprets on their own journey. I've only learnt Kathak, so I have to draw my strength from the classical style. But does abstracting the classical render it contemporary? Not really. Kathak is the form that my body knows, but my mind knows much more, right? Since childhood, I've learnt yoga. (Intensely) My dance is the dynamism and spirit of Kathak with a yoga spine. I want to explore space using our bodies, but changing the dynamics of the spine. I do not like a blank face on stage. I dance with my heart. I don't care how contemporary or not contemporary that is. Because, in Kathak, the main element is emotion. I want to retain its instantaneous communication with the audience.