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Beginning of the End
- Mayuri Upadhya

August 8, 2013

Choreographers are people of such imagination and vision. Each creator's drive, concerns vary from each other and from time to time. Inspired by personal, creative, intuitive, technical input each composition takes shape. I for one aspire to reach a realm where I can create and watch my own 'unforgettable extraordinary theatrical experience.' And this target set the backdrop for my next - a surreal masked entity. When you start a new piece of creation, you address several questions looking for fitting answers. In the end, I'm not sure if the questions are answered but it definitely leaves you with the next set of questions to respond.

My concerns for this piece were:
a) About engaging with other human beings not with mere delight of bodily movement but the viewing and experience of the dance.
b) To retain, recreate and relive the beauty and exoticism built upon our art practices over the years.

Using influences of the orient, the work designs individuals into one narrative: Of a king, who sets eyes on extending the horizon of his kingdom, sets to sail on the quest but fate takes him on an unexpected journey of betrayal. The music of this piece has something very innately universal that it strikes a chord with every person. It had all the qualities - royalty of a kingdom, the grandeur of a king, the hint of an impending doom - that are vital to this choreography. To add to its beauty were the perfect pauses of silence which accentuated the dance. Needless to say that this dance choreography has been inspired from the music, resulting in a union of the two. With that in place, I focussed on my warriors viz the dancers of the piece.

The piece had larger than life Kathakali inspired fluorescent masks to adorn and dance with. So, the dancers had to absorb two processes: with and without the mask. At studio, usually I like to start with a fresh image in mind and a great deal of trial and error. The form is arrived at after movements coming from the dancer's bodies, from my body to theirs and mainly from the main thread of emotion holding the piece. This piece was especially difficult for the dancers since the usage of the masks meant they have to use their bodies to emote what the mask hid from the faces. Also, working on the stage's geometry and developing a sixth sense of positions of fellow dancers was quite a task. To add to the trouble was the difficulty in breathing due to the masks. We began with a lot of breathing exercises to get rid of the breathing difficulty and the anxiety that the mask would entail. Also, additional focus was laid upon exercises with the dancer to understand how one puts feelings in the character with a mask on your face and utilize the body for emoting the ideas.

Making of the Kathakali masks was one of my favourite parts of this piece. After poring over references of masks from almost all possible places in India, we settled on the Kathakali look. Contemporizing the mask was a fun task. It was a new learning experience working with the designer, poring over different versions of the mask, finalising the look, the colour, the texture, the proportion of the size. The use of UV lights and gorgeously designed costumes by the designer duo Abu Jani - Sandeep Khosla enhanced the piece.

Like all pieces, it will grow with time, mature. And who knows, at some point in future, I might just extend it.

Mayuri Upadhya is the Artistic Director of Bangalore based Indian contemporary dance company Nritarutya.

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