Sadhya’s Mystical Forest
Photos courtesy: Sadhya

June 6, 2014

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations presented ‘The Mystical Forest,’ a contemporary dance production based on Mayurbhanj Chhau by Sadhya Dance Company, choreographed by Santosh Nair on 20th May 2014 at Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi. The production had its world premiere in March this year at the Kalanidhi Festival in Toronto, Canada and drew an overwhelming response.

Its India premiere involved both Indian and foreign artistes (Carolina Prada from Columbia and Gaura Prema from USA). ‘The Mystical Forest’ explores life within the forest as its inhabitants. It attempts to draw from the dance vocabulary of Mayurbhanj Chhau with strong, grounded movements and contemporary interpretation. Various experiences, activities, emotions, rituals and celebrations of the inhabitants related to their life within the forest, find expression. The production without being too outright makes one think, if only we could let this world (of the inhabitants of the forest) be as it is….simple, innocent, surviving with their natural habitat, and let nothing disturb this natural existence.

Slide show

Santosh Nair talks about his production.

Choice of Environment theme
The theme was not taken keeping environment in mind but what could be best suited to draw from the vocabulary of Mayurbhanj Chhau. This is how we zeroed in on this particular theme as it gave us the scope to explore the wide expanse of movements found in this dance form.

Choreography process
The choreography process for this production was indeed quite interesting. Its initial stages involved a lot of improvisation on various topics related to the theme. The artistes were given different topics related to the theme and were told to create small segments where they could explore the grammar of Mayurbhanj Chhau and also stay in line with the theme. Some very interesting and innovative movements came out of this exercise. Steadily, I saw our dancers even deconstruct some of the Chhau movements creating an image that looked different and unique and stayed with the essence of what I wanted it to look like. Hence before blocking the different segments of the production I had with me enough material in terms of both movements and mood to thread it all together.

What message do you seek to convey?
At the time when we were still to script the production and were looking at material (videos etc) to understand and study a little more about the inhabitants of the forest, the one thing that was indeed noticeable was that they lived in a world of their own…..very simple, very natural, very unfazed. And we also were aware of instances when for reasons beyond our understanding this natural way of their life had constantly been threatened by various factors and in the name of different programs of different countries. This feel of an intrusion into their world and their sensitivity and protectiveness towards their survival is what we felt for and translated the same onto the stage in a very subtle manner and hoped that our audience too would give it a thought.

The credits include: Choreography: Santosh Nair, Script and Production: Nalini Sharma, Music Composer: Upmanyu Bhanot, Light Design: Gyandev Singh, Costume Design: Alpana and Neeraj.