India Today - - DANCE -

Awoman dressed in black, with cropped hair and no make-up is part of the au­di­ence. She keeps smil­ing at the two ac­tors who dis­play no in­hi­bi­tions about their anatomy. Shirts and trousers come off and male bod­ies in all their glory move on the rick­ety charpai placed in the in­ti­mate au­di­to­rium at the­atre di­rec­tor Nee­lam Mans­ingh’s house in Chandigarh. There is rhythm and also an in­tel­li­gent lack of it. While she watches Delhi-based dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen Size, a chore­o­graphic re­sponse to Sec­tion 377, she al­most bursts out laugh­ing as soon as Arnab Goswami’s voice booms in the back­ground as part of the fan­tas­tic sound de­sign. Anti-cli­max?

A few hours ear­lier, sit­ting in the glo­ri­ous Jan­uary win­ter sun, 36-year-old Raikhy, who com­pleted his BA in Dance The­atre from Trin­ity La­ban Con­ser­va­toire of Mu­sic and Dance, UK, in the year 2002, says that he shares a com­plex re­la­tion­ship with dance. “I think I am able to ar­tic­u­late best through the body as I am deeply con­nected to it. It has be­come my lan­guage to speak in, my sense to de­ci­pher what goes around,” he says, al­most dream­ily.

To Raikhy, the idea of Queen Size—a re­ac­tion to Sec­tion 377 that makes ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity crim­i­nal in In­dia— came when a num­ber of ma­jor writ­ers re­turned their awards in the face of grow­ing in­tol­er­ance in the coun­try. “That was also the start of ag­i­ta­tions at JNU. I felt dance must re­spond to so­cial con­text. It is re­ally sad that dance as an art form has al­ways been clin­i­cally apo­lit­i­cal, maybe be­cause it bears the bur­den of 4000 years of our cul­tural his­tory.” Talk to him about the fact that the protests mostly saw writ­ers re­turn­ing the awards and speak­ing out against the gov­ern­ment and he is quick to add, “I can speak only for dancers. But yes, that is what hap­pened. Maybe it is to the fact that they are heav­ily de­pen­dent on the state for re­sources. And when we talk about dance in In­dia, what comes to mind is the clas­si­cal tra­di­tion, some­thing not re­ally as­so­ci­ated with dis­sent. I wanted to change that with Queen Size.”

Lament­ing the lack of pro­fes­sional train­ing fa­cil­i­ties in con­tem­po­rary dance, Raikhy says that those in­ter­ested ei­ther have to go in the clas­si­cal fold or shift abroad. “There is noth­ing in the mid­dle, some­thing which is highly prob­lem­atic. When we come back with a dif­fer­ent skill set, we also im­bibe alien metaphors, mak­ing it tough for us to trans­late them into lo­cal means to re­flect the so­cial real­ity here.”

Raikhy smiles when ‘art in the time of Modi’ is brought up. “It is re­ally sur­pris­ing that the present regime has man­aged to in­duce so much fear. How­ever, I be­lieve that the only way one can truly be an artist is through re­sis­tance? ”

While the con­ver­sa­tion shifts to­wards his much-talked about pre­vi­ous play A Male Ant Has Straight An­ten­nae, a project that ex­plored mas­culin­ity, he elab­o­rates, “Through dance, we con­structed and de­con­structed many lay­ers of mas­culin­ity—look­ing at the body and scan­ning it for gen­der con­struc­tion. It was about how slight changes in the hu­man body— touch, gait, and glance de­fine gen­der; how it is shaped by the so­ci­ety and at the same time very per­sonal to an in­di­vid­ual.”


Dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Mandeep Raikhy

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