Preethi Athreya creates time and space in The Lost Wax Project. A living and breathing body with limbs cutting through the air, drawing lines and warping sense of time with it. Each gesture following a new rhythm, a new heartbeat. Then, dancing bodies will become the cosmos; a new universe of never-ending flow and change.
What is dance but the poetry of the body to be written and then read?
The Esplanade Annexe transforms into a meditative space. The low drumming of the Indian drums and the soulful voice of the singer filling up the dark black room. I walk in and once I am past the black curtains hanging loosely to demarcate the performance area, it is almost as if a new atmosphere envelops me. I feel quiet, my feet softly taking steps forward, careful to not make a sound.
The dancers of The Lost Wax Project stand at the edge of a circular shape, bowls filled with rice powder sitting on their hips. Then their hands gently dip into the bowl, hold onto a fistful of powder and start marking the stage. Tediously and ritualistically, they go around spreading the powder from the centre until the entire circle is covered in white. A white circle quietly commanding my attention in the middle of the wide black floor.
Sparking my imagination, the powder takes on shapes in my mind—an archery target, a mosquito coil, a seashell and finally a field entirely sown and laid to rest. A beginning.
It is interesting that the title of this work, The Lost Wax Project, takes inspiration from the process of sculpting. To create a metallic sculpture, one uses wax moulds to cast and shape. Then the wax is lost, no longer needed and left aside.
Like sculptures constantly being moulded, the dancers never stop moving. Under the watchful eye of choreographer and dancer Preethi Athreya, the four dancers sculpt their bodies from one shape to the next in mesmerising sequence. Their level of technique and precision is definitely worth commending, with the lines of their bodies a gift to the audience. Their spines bowing to the ground, their arms bending in embrace and their legs stretching out to extend personal space. They blend from individuals to couples in different moments, but always moving as one: all four dancers together, shaping one another with their constant dynamic.
A notable moment will be when all four dancers finally descend into the powdered floor, their garments, skin and hair stained with white as the dance carries on. Every gesture is made tangible and physical by these markings of rice powder and they stay on the body, never the same again.
The vocabulary of dance is kept small, with a stronger focus on exploring the performative space and the tensions of the body. Together with repetition and synergy, these are the main elements that drive the work forward. Initially, it is beautiful to watch, my eyes following every move with curiosity and appreciation. The body when embodying tension can command such attention and draws you to it.
However, my interest starts to wane after a while, with the tension constantly up high with little breathing space, wanting an explosion of energy or a climax of some sort. The audience starts shifting in their seats, and a part of me is glad that I am not the only one hoping for a release, a liberation, a breath in the performance to switch up the dynamics in the now heavy atmosphere.
Choreographer Athreya shares that she thinks of the universe and the cosmos while creating this work, with dance as a language and the body a boundary to keep pushing and challenging. Then surely the cosmos are more volatile and temperamental? Where is that possible spark of a shooting star instead of getting lost in the abyss of an endless Black Hole?
Right now, The Lost Wax Project is mysterious and elusive. Its beauty a gradual growth from the beginning and its end quiet and dignified, but nothing concrete to really hold onto. Like stars, they disappear into the night sky. A flicker.