The first word that comes to mind when I try to describe Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company’s Inter_rupted is “rapture”. Uplifting and incredibly spiritual, the performance surpasses all my expectations and I leave Esplanade -Theatres on the Bay in a daze.
Inter_rupted is an exploration of the human body and all of its possibilities as well as vulnerabilities. Focusing on the body itself, it invites the audience to take a good look at the human body and to celebrate its wholeness — the way it lives every day, flowing through moments and days, hand in hand with interruptions of an emotional and mental nature.
Right from the setting, my entire attention is drawn to the vast performance space and its openness. The typical heavy curtains of the stage are nowhere in sight. In their place stand wooden walls, thin and patched with different shades of wood. They surround the stage and rise all the way up to the top of the stage. Thinking about the human body, life and death comes to mind. The set reminds me of nature and when the lights dim for the very first scene, the inside of a coffin.
Mostly silent besides the occasion shuffling in chairs and awkward clearing of throats by the audience, a dancer appears in the spotlight. He stands still with his gaze far out, focusing on something the rest of us are not privy to. His face starts to contort: is it fear, worry or a cry for help? Then his body starts to shake, spasms that seem uncontrollable and we hear his shortness of breath. His feet start to stamp every now and then, the sound echoing across the quiet theatre then he falls backwards. He disappears into the darkness and I wonder if I just witnessed the last moments of life before death.
Before that moment is allowed to sit, a body is being dragged diagonally across the stage. Limbs pushing and brushing against the stage floor, body bending and contorting to travel. I am struck by the faceless image: body twisting and black cloth trailing from the head, like a never-ending trail of hair dragging along. The heaviness and burdensome task is like reading poetry; its symbolism needing no explanation.
Then the full ensemble of dancers consisting of Anjana Singh, Manoj Sonagra, Sunny Shishodiya, Gaurav Bhatti, Diksha Tripathi, Tripti Gupta and of course Aditi Mangaldas herself come on. The lights grow in brightness as their rhythmic stamping speed up, their earth-coloured costumes by Sandhya Raman floating up like dried flowers in the wind.
The dancing brings about vivid imagery, one after another in quick succession, and they bring me along this journey with their use of contemporary dance that is inspired by kathak. All the dancers are energetic and generously commit to the performance with all their hearts, they themselves gradually transform as the show goes on. The live musicians featuring vocalist Faraz Ahmed, tabla player Mohit Gangani and pakhawaj player Ashish Gangani bring about a new atmosphere when they come on, injecting the dancers with renewed energy and shifting the stage dynamics to keep the excitement and the show from becoming stale. Seamlessly moving from exuberance to devastation, it is an understatement to say that the performance kept me on the edge of my seat.
What is next and what is the main story? Or are there multiple stories going on at once? Is the human body really telling only one story at a time, or is it a diary of multitudes and layers — messy, complicated and diverse?
After a journey that comes full circle, the dancers drag themselves across the stage. Rebirth, reincarnation, maybe?
Then the lady comes on again, her body resuming the crawling from one end of the stage to the other. This time, the black cloth nowhere to be found, just her real hair sweeping the floor following the body. But this time, she breaks the pattern.
She sits in the middle of the stage, still faceless, her soft voice singing. Mangaldas joins her on stage, effortlessly fitting her own body into the crevices of the already sitting body. They dance in an intimate way like they are the same person, a body and her own shadow. Finally, Mangaldas disappears behind that curtain of hair.
After the span of a single breath, she reemerges: her hands parting the hair to reveal her face, born again. And I, too, take a new breath of air and feel the world change while my body feels more present, more alive, inter_rupted by such a spiritual encounter I may never forget.