Dancing “Periscope”

Youth Wing dancer Sangeeta Iyer reminisces rehearsing and performing Nakula Somanna’s latest work “Periscope”. Excerpts…

I still remember that class when Nakula Somanna, our instructor and choreographer, announced to us that we would be presenting the material we had created in a stage production. Our excitement knew no bounds! We, the Youth Wing dancers, had been working on creating movement material and choreographing small segments in his classes, and to realize that we would be showcasing our work at one of Bangalore’s most-happening venues thrilled us.

After every training session, Nakula would give us an assignment to create our own movement material based on a common score: Once we were told to improvise on Bharatanatyam adavus, where hastha and movement was initiated as if it was dragged out of a body part. Another time, we were asked to create movement that didn’t follow any specific rhythm pattern, making it appear off-beat. Once he had asked us to narrate a small personal story or autobiography and use movement as we narrated it. We were once told to work in pairs and choreograph a sequence illustrating a fight.

These different segments were then strung together, set to music, and several additions and deletions later Persicope was created! The concept for the piece was to look at different levels, layers and depths of time and space. Many brainstorming sessions later, we decided to use white movable screens as props that would divide our performance area into smaller segments of spaces. Movement of prop would alter the space visually.

For me, working on Periscope has been a great learning experience. We underwent several months of training in technique and flexibility before the showcase, which really equipped us to put our best foot forward. As a Bharatanatyam dancer, I am accustomed to dance “facing” an audience that is almost always in front of me. I remember Nakula telling us, “Dance in space. Don’t think about always having to face your audience.” It was initially difficult to let go for many of us, but it eventually came through. As classical dancers, we are also accustomed to making our movement graceful by default. I can never forget Nakula asking us to just move, without focusing so much on the “prettiness” of our movement! I had never before worked this way- it was a tremendous change, not just in adapting to a new style of movement but also in exploring a new perspective to dance.

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