Telling stories through dance

Amrita Prasad
Friday, 6 October 2017

Sumeet Nagdev, dancer, choreographer and founder of Sumeet Nagdev Dance Arts, who is presenting Tridha at Indigene tonight in the city, gives us a peek

Contemporary dance is all about making productions, so I made three in the past three years and when all three come together, we call it Tridha,” says well-known contemporary dancer and choreographer, Sumeet Nagdev who is performing at Indigene Pune’s first Performing Arts, Heritage and Culinary Festival. The festival, which is taking place today and tomorrow (October 7 and 8), is being organised by Artsphere and Black Swan Journeys. 

Tridha has three productions —  Dhrut, Dashanan and Trishna — and three different dance forms like contemporary, Kathak and ballet. Dhrut portrays the intricate relationship between time, space and speed. “A sync between rapid movement vocabulary and musicality — the choreography highlights the individual impact of pace, rhythm and motion on movement and how they emerge as a unified whole,” says Nagdev.  

Nagdev, who runs Sumeet Nagdev Dance Arts in Mumbai, is deeply inspired by mythological stories and tries to tell some of them through his choreography. The second production Dashanan is a solo performance by Nagdev and has been choreographed by his mentor and former principal dancer of the prestigious Martha Graham Dance Company — Steve Rooks. 

“Every time I used to read the Ramayana, I kind of always looked at Ravana — also called Dashanan as he has 10 heads — as an anti-hero. The production shows the beauty and 10 traits of Ravana. The choreography journeys through 10 distinct ideologies of Ravana imagined in the present that shows him against the backdrop of a successful failure. The movement vocabulary is a mix of Graham-inspired physicality and Yakshagana ­— an Indian traditional theatre form that combines dance, music, dialogue, costume, makeup and stage techniques,” informs Nagdev who believes that there in an anti-hero in every villain. 

His third production Trishna, which is a dance theatre, is based on a simple interaction he had with his domestic help. The production delves into finding ‘How do we look at women?’ It has been designed by reconstructing experiences of a domestic help and her husband. Says Nagdev, “She spoke about how her husband had passed away and I was expressing my condolences unaware that there was a bitter-sweet symphony playing in her head because he had been torturing and abusing her and had even sold her once. She didn’t know whether to be happy since the painful days were over or moan over her husband’s death. The dilemma was interesting to me and I took that as an important element in my piece.”

Here, Nagdev wants to highlight social injustice done to women. “We all talk about injustice done to women and fight for women empowerment but how often do we really see, feel and understand what women are trying to say or have experienced. I have tried to reproduce these elements in an artistic manner, but some may find it a bit disturbing,” he adds. 

Nagdev, who was seen as one of the captains of Star Plus’ dance reality show Dance Plus season 1, doesn’t connect with contemporary dance performed on television as they are different from how artists perform. 

“This is not what I call contemporary dance. It is different and perhaps suits television. It is not like it is not contemporary but I have started to call it TV contemporary,” says Nagdev who informs that even abroad a contemporary dance production is quite different from what is performed on reality shows. 

He, however, laments about the lack of funds for artists, performers and dance institutes in India. 

Nagdev strongly condemns dance reality shows for children because it is killing their innocence. “They are trying to impersonate somebody they are not. They are making them do certain expressions which are not age appropriate. It bothers me. What are they doing to the kids’ mindset at this tender age? The saddest thing is that celebrities are popularising and making it into a propaganda. When did art become a propaganda? If adult contestants are doing it, they are aware of it and can take their decisions but what about the kids? They are not allowed to make their own decisions; they are fed decisions and they think they are  right. Kids’ dance reality shows should be stopped,” he urges. 

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