Chinta Cinta: Ruminations on Love premiered online from 12 April to 30 April 2021.
Multidisciplinary artist-choreographers Nirmala Seshadri and Soultari Amin Farid present Chinta Cinta: Ruminations on Love (produced by local contemporary performance collective Bhumi Collective), drawing upon their respective practices of Bharatanatyam and Malay Dance to inform their practice-led research.
Chinta Cinta presents as a dance film that treads gently between documentary and diary; serving as a record of the two practitioners’ observations and movement experiments, yet also carrying a tone of wistful musing. The film begins with Nirmala tapping her hands in a four-three beat while vocalising a three-four tala. As Amin tries out the footwork Nirmala illustrated with her hands, he remarks that in contrast to the complex rhythmic patterns of Bharatanatyam, Malay dance seems to be slower and lacking dynamics.
At the same time, recognising that Malay dance originated as a folk dance, Amin points out that some degree of simplicity was necessary for village folks to participate. Here then comes the first consideration: what happens when folk dance is moved to the stage? Amin wonders “if [he] complicate[s] it, does it lose its function?”, and Nirmala agrees, asking if anything has been added or has something been lost in the reconfiguration.
Screenshot from Chinta Cinta: Ruminations on Love
The film then cuts to scenes of the duo re-situated outside the studio. There are shots of Amin moving in the sea, of Nirmala walking on sand and perched on a large fallen trunk (seen above), and of the two at a void deck, navigating pillars, passers-by, their own bodies and then each other. We see an attempt in each practitioner to break down the movement so learned in their bodies, moving past recognisable forms of each practice, although there are still occasional indications of their bodily history, whether in the fold of Nirmala’s fingers or in the gentle sway of Amin’s walk. Their movements echo their discussion thus far of how they can slow down and further mine their practice.
As the discussion goes on, a second consideration emerges regarding the body’s capability to learn and do justice to each other’s movement practice, especially in intercultural dialogues such as this where cultural appropriation is also a key concern. While both remain wary and worried about a possible inability to adequately transcribe the desired movement with their bodies, they also agree that rather than denying oneself of this opportunity to learn, it is more important to allow space for each other to come onto the same page.
Nirmala poignantly articulates this cross-cultural sharing as an act of bringing each other closer in one bubble, and this is also visually cued in the second half of the film, where the two practitioners are seen in (presumably) one of their homes. Amin teaches Nirmala the basic steps of the lenggang, and the two circle the small living room, accompanied by sounds of chirping birds and ongoing construction outside. The resulting movement flow is soothing, almost meditative. Even through the screen, Nirmala’s deep focus and presence is compelling. As she invests in her movement it begins to subtly shift, revealing traces reminiscent of Bharatanatyam. The camera closes in, creating an arresting visual of the dancers’ arms weaving in and out of each other, almost as one.
Chinta Cinta is a research endeavour through which the two artists aim to reveal points of similarities in their forms (amidst larger goals of raising awareness of and inspiring more cross-cultural collaboration and artistic exchanges in Singapore and the region) and this is clearly shown through the film, from the beginning discussion of differences to the practical exploration of movements that come to reveal their commonalities. Towards the end of the film, we are brought back to the beach, with Nirmala this time joining Amin in the sea, their bodies gently swayed by the same waves.
Screenshot from Chinta Cinta: Ruminations on Love
One gets the sense that learned as they are, these practitioners are constantly still re-meeting and re-encountering themselves and each other. While the gentle, serene quality of the film – from pacing to colouring – conceals the struggles they must have faced in their respective physical and research practices, it also belies a tenderness and care with which they hold their crafts, and their hopes for it. It is an illuminating film, cleverly composed and layered such that the film also performs beyond the function of a simple archive, leveraging on visuals and sounds to convey ideas and sensations that words cannot. The ending shot is of two eagles soaring in the sky, a rather apt image for how such artistic exchanges can contribute to a larger web of understanding, collaboration and new expressions.
Yixuan is a movement creative who enjoys dabbling in multiple disciplines and capacities through an embodied approach. She graduated with a BA First Class Honours in Dance and Choreography from Falmouth University (United Kingdom), and now freelances as a performer, maker and teacher amidst other in-betweens. Her artistic practice stems from a sense of curiosity and urgency towards the self and the world around, and she finds the body to be a way of seeing through which new perspectives and greater understandings emerge.