The Visibility of Edges

Dance writer and producer Ian Abbott considers the edges of touch, authenticity, and repetition in two performances

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the centre” —Kurt Vonnegut 

The Attakkalari India Biennial 2017 clearly defines its edges. With nine parts to the festival, there are multiple invitations to engage: from Centre Stage (internationally acclaimed performance work) and Studio Encounters (masterclasses and technique classes) to Platform 17: Emerging South Asia (artists showcase) to the Writing on Dance Laboratory (an intensive collaborative writing workshop), the Attakkalari team are generous with their offer.

Jori Kerremans’s Some Time Today for Tomorrow at FACETS 2017 Richa Bhavanam

An edge has multiple definitions, it can be a margin, extreme verge, or the outside limit of an object. It can also be a sharp terminating border. An edge acts as a way-marker, a place of definition between spaces, and offers us something to hold on to. Within this context I look at Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen-size and Jori Kerremans Some Time Today for Tomorrow and consider their edges of touch, authenticity, and repetition.

STTFT “examines notions of trust, equality, and inequality between two people” while Queen-size “examines the nuts and bolts—carnal, mechanical and emotional—of a close encounter between two male bodies, as a response to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality in India”. Both are duets. Both explore touch. Here the similarities end. Kerremans and Hemabharathy Palani dance for 12 minutes. They start together, turned inward, facing and folding their limbs into each other. Kerremans is about 20 centimeters taller and in their initial embrace there is an awkwardness as he cranes his neck and torso, trying to settle in the cracks of Palani’s body. 

Jori Kerremans’s Some Time Today for Tomorrow at FACETS 2017 Richa Bhavanam
Jori Kerremans’s Some Time Today for Tomorrow at FACETS 2017 Richa Bhavanam

Here their edges are invisible. Together, they have worked to erase their own perimeter—an attempt at two bodies crinkling together. Created for FACETS 2017 (an international five-week choreographic residency for emerging choreographers), this work is Kerremans’ first with another dancer (he made a solo earlier last year) since leaving Scottish Dance Theatre in December 2016. The investment shown from both dancers is only possible when a trust is built inside and outside of the studio—sharing experiences, understanding each other, and what is permitted translates into an authenticity of touch. STTFT connects with an audience as we believe in their touch—how the toucher touches, how the touched responds to being touched. The infinitesimal tremors that surround the bodies send us signals, hold our attention, and guide our focus towards the choreographic intention. What we see in their slow circling and drifting hands isn’t choreographically radical or new but it is imbued with a purity and sensuality that belies the early stages of Kerremans’ career. 

“People driven by a pursuit that puts them on the edges are often not on the periphery, but on the frontier, testing the limits of what it is possible to discover.” —Sarah Lewis

Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen-size was presented as part of Platform Plus, a new edition to the Biennial that presents Indian artists “who have carved a niche with their work and have emerged as important players in the field of contemporary movement arts”. Within the confines of a tightly packed room crammed with over a hundred other bodies, edges are highlighted, emphasised, and offered as a provocation. Queen-size runs in a 45-minute loop played continuously over two hours and forty five minutes in the round. Raikhy punctuates his work with chances for an audience to enter/exit the performance at specific intervals— a structure more commonly found in an installation and live art context. These visible edges are helpful for an audience as they are confronted with choreographic, representational content that some governmentally-minded people might find offensive; within the context of the audiences of South Asia’s largest festival for contemporary movement any visible reaction was muted.

Two male bodies engage in four-to-seven minute sections of fevered, urgent movement—bed hopping, grinding, and thrusting in various stages of undress (yet never fully naked). The audience are brushed by bare legs as each dancer paces around the central charpoy in an attempt to immerse and implicate the audience into this space of desire. 

There is a marked difference when you tenderly brush an arm, grazing the skin with limited pressure, and leaving the imprint of your fingers in the arm like a memory foam pillow. A subtle brush is often more powerful than a ramrod when attempting to convey emotion and this was where Queen-size fell down for me. A constant exposure to non-subtle physical and sexual interactions has an initial impact, but the lack of nuance and emotional range of the dancers left me on the edge of authenticity. I didn’t believe what I saw and consequently failed to connect. Raikhy’s Queen-size is close to being a very good work which could be ready for an international touring market. The work explores socially charged histories, has an interesting choreographic palette, and represents an alternative voice within the contemporary dance ecology in India.

Within the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017, STTFT and Queen-size generated a lot of attention and discussion amongst the wider festival audience, demonstrating a hunger for work that responds to the politics and social frameworks of today. In our increasingly binary age where touch and human connection is seen as a radical act, these works sit well amongst the likes of Tania El Khoury’s As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis’s The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight and Verity Standen’s Hug—works that also challenger the physical and emotional boundaries of touch and the audience. 

“Life, for people, begins to crumble on the edges; they don't realise it.” —Dorothea Lange

Ian Abbott is a producer and writer based in Scotland. He likes to make things happen using dance, words, art, and books. He can often be found rummaging in alternative fields of thought to translate, repackage, and enhance existing models. Twitter handle: @TheGeometrician

TABLE of Contents
Curtain Call:
After the Biennial

During the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017, within the Writing on Dance Laboratory, we had several conversations about dance—its making, its reception, its impact, its sensations, its politics. Watching every performance at the festival, and attending conferences, screenings, and other festival events, the Lab participants received a broad view of festival happenings. That holistic perspective and those many conversations are reflected in Ligament’s final issue on the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017. Through the each of the participants’ different experiences of different events, we are left with pertinent questions about dance that might be worth considering after the festival has ended, through all the dance we watch in days to come. Why do we watch dance? Why should we write on dance? Are there many ways to write? And when dance makes us feel something, anything, what questions do we ask of it?

— Poorna Swami, Editor

To Hunt Or Be Hunted: (W)Rite into a Legacy
Dayita Nereyeth

Dancer and writer Dayita Nereyeth broadly traces the choreographic legacy of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and her relationship with it

The Visibility of Edges
Ian Abbott

Dance writer and producer Ian Abbott considers the edges of touch, authenticity, and repetition in two performances

All The Pillars That Hold Up The Ceiling Resonate A Different Sound
Parvathi Ramanathan

Dance and writer Parvathi Ramanathan looks at the individual and the ensemble in contemporary dance practice

Front Row At The Bench India Conference

Swar Thounaojam

Playwright, theatre director, and performer Swar Thounaojam looks at the optics around women choreographers in contemporary dance through Centre Stage performances and a conference at the Biennial 2017

Rhythm in the Body, Rhythm of the Mind
Himalaya Gohel

Dance researcher and PhD student Himalaya Gohel examines two works to investigate our notions of melody, music, and movement in contemporary dance

ShowReel : While We Strive
Darshan Manakkal

Dancers Revé Terborg, Audrey Apers and Ivan Ugrin from The Netherlands presented While We Strive, choreographed by Arno Schuitemaker, on Day 8 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : This Is The Title
Darshan Manakkal

Finnish choreographer-performer Ima Iduozee presented This is the Title on Day 8 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Westward Ho!
Darshan Manakkal

Finland’s Tero Saarinen Company presented Westward Ho!, choreographed by Tero Saarinen, on Day 8 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Man in a Room
Darshan Manakkal

Finland’s Tero Saarinen presented Man In A Room on Day 8 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Conditions Of Carriage
Darshan Manakkal

Chennai-based choreographer Preethi Athreya and the Jumpers presented Conditions Of Carriage on the closing day of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Isshh(क)
Darshan Manakkal

Bangalore’s Attakkalari Repertory Company presented Isshh(क), choreographed by Swiss choreographer Nicole Seiler, on the closing day of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017


To pick up and run with a magazine that has had another life is never easy. There are those conflicting desires to find close continuity and to just scrap it all and start anew. Ligament 2016-17 reemerges from a half-way point. We want to build on the investigations and insights of the magazine’s past contributors and also find ways to say what they perhaps had wanted to say but could not, or forgot to, in that moment.

Ligament was founded to facilitate the articulation of an evolving language that encompasses the impulses of contemporary dance. The idea of “contemporary” is inherently bound to time, to a sense of history, rather multiple histories unfolding. In its 2016-17 iteration, we hope that Ligament can grapple with the idea of how dance might hold a place in-step with the patterns of active and forming histories, rather than remaining a canonised and pondered response to a bygone world. We’d like to embrace the immediacy of “contemporary”, and invite contributions from dancers, choreographers, arts practitioners, scholars, audience members, readers. In this way, we hope to reach for the intimacies, resistances, and fragilities that permeate the developing field of South Asian contemporary dance.

Articulating a medium as visceral, visual, and ephemeral as dance requires making connections to methods of thought and critique that lie outside evaluative language. So for Ligament 2016-17 we welcome, of course, the critical essay, but also audio, photographs, ekphrastic poems, interviews, and hybrid media of various kinds that might speak to us about dance, carefully and proximately. Like the anatomical connective tissue for which it is named, Ligament, we hope, can help us locate dance in tandem with the many bodies that produce and encapsulate it.

To those who find themselves here for the first time, welcome. And those whom we have met before, we are glad you are back.

—Poorna Swami, Editor

Get in touch with us at ligament@attakkalari.org