What Do We See And Feel While Watching Dance?

Dance researcher and PhD student Himalaya Gohel examines two works at the Biennial to talk of the audience’s role in the reception of each of them

Meghna Bhardwaj’s Edges (Beginnings) at FACETSBiennial 2017 Magali Couffon

At the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017, we were presented a broad range of contemporary dance performances. The following two works stood out to me as endeavours to create an experience of dance that provides the viewer, in an unusual manner, with the choice of accepting or rejecting the interpretation of the choreographer.

At the FACETS Choreography Residency showcase, Meghna Bhardwaj’s Edges (Beginnings) wove a precise serenity into itself. In her introduction, she says she drew inspiration from the work of musical artist Jan Eerala. Those familiar with the serenity of the soundscape in Eerala’s works will easily find the link between the two. The uninitiated have to watch for Meghna’s careful movements so that each limb, each crevice, each edge of her body emerges as an intentional and controlled exercise in seeking what still exists around us.

Meghna’s piece begins with her balancing on the ground, using her shoulders to support the rest of her body, her legs up in the air and her back, towards the audience. With this opening to her work, she creates an image that is instantly familiar yet fresh. Slowly, we are drawn into the physical exploration of her quest to find the edges of her body and in turn the edges of her internal scape, too. Soon after the piece begins, we forget the body’s brilliant ability to move and create images, which is the intent of the dancer. In Meghna’s work, it isn’t the virtuosic body that is showcased but rather a body in motion, pushing itself to seek answers. The answers seem to be to questions around training and the dancer’s own understanding of quietness.

In Tordre (Wrought), Annie Hanauer seems to have found the answers to some of these questions, too. Her pirouetting engenders the same meditative involvement achieved by monks observing stillness. In this Centre Stage work, choreographed by Rachid Ouramdane, dancers Annie Hanauer and Lora Juodkaite perform a work that reads as two solos in the same space. While Lora explores the space in sharp lines and expansive movements, Annie employs circularity as her mode of being in the space. Her constant pirouetting seems to swallow the whole stage but also the struggles and inquiries of the performance. Tordre begins and ends with upbeat music, and the movements corresponding with this soundscape remind us of happier times when we would have accepted the fatality of life, as it were. 

For some of us in the Writing on Dance Laboratory, neither of these dance pieces may have impressed in the physicality of their movement or their presentation skills. But I see these dance works as a good exercise for audiences to perceive familiar movement expressed in unfamiliar ways. For example, ‘circularity’ in dance is an essential element of many forms of dance (from the whirling dervishes of Egypt to Garba dancers of Gujarat) and is employed as a hypnotic and meditative tool. So the evolution of modern dance vocabulary could be an invitation to post-humanist interpretations. 

In Bhardwaj’s work, I could see the ‘beginning’ it its true sense of her developing and enhancing her quest, in thought and in moving beyond the physicality of dance. Her work allowed me to understand a genuine search for the sources of anguish and pain through her body. Her work became more than good body movement in its willingness to go to fetch answers. 

In Annie’s pirouettes, I saw the certainty of answers. Her movements, for me, work towards testing a hypothesis that experience influences smoothness. I’ve come to read this quality of continuous and steady harmony as a testament to the maturing journey of the performer. Her dance reads to me as representational in terms of the visualisation of the character’s internal struggles but experiential in terms of the kinaesthetic affect. 

In the end, Meghna’s work with its crescendo and collage of images is an exploration of nature, of life. While the same could be said of Annie’s solo in Tordre, the simplicity of her images and the internalisation of the movements make the larger piece art rather than quest. To appreciate these kinds of works requires the audience to be patient, accepting of searching for meaning in the body and in narrative. Sometimes, they will have to look elsewhere, too.

Himalaya Gohel is a dance researcher and a PhD student at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU. His research revolves around community dance forms and traditional movement structures.

TABLE of Contents
The Biennial Issue: Part 2

As the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017 comes to a close, participants in the Writing on Dance Laboratory show us the festival in their words and images.

Zawirowania Dance Theatre’s Closeness
Swar Thounaojam

Playwright, theatre director, and performer Swar Thounaojam finds the Polish dance company’s trio work just bold and beautiful

The Time, The Times: A Dual Perspective
Dayita Nereyeth and Ian Abbott

Dayita Nereyeth and Ian Abbott take a collaborative stab at Time Takes The Times Time Takes choreographed by Guy Nader | Maria Campos to offer a fuller perspective on the work

Vacant Chairs Weigh Heavy With The Memories Of Everyone Who Has Sat On Them
Parvathi Ramanathan

Dancer and writer Parvathi Ramanathan reads through Fabien Prioville’s La Suite

Show Us Some Moves: Small and Silly Dances
Dayita Nereyeth

Dancer and writer Dayita Nereyeth gets the festival team dancing

do you believe what you hear? do you hear what you believe?
Ian Abbott

Dance writer and producer Ian Abbott chronicles the origin and execution of an interview with ‘silence designer’ Marcel Zaes

Review: Ronita Mookerji's Who?
Dayita Nereyeth

Dancer and writer Dayita Nereyeth reflects on this Bangalore choreographer and dancer’s latest work-in-progress solo

What Do We See And Feel While Watching Dance?
Himalaya Gohel

Dance researcher and PhD student Himalaya Gohel examines two works at the Biennial to talk of the audience’s role in the reception of each of them

When Does A Dance Piece End?
Sheetala Bhat

Actor and writer Sheetala Bhat analyses the relationship between performer, audience, and time through Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen-size

ShowReel : Bhinna Vinyasa
Darshan Manakkal

Bangalore’s Attakkalari Repertory Company presented Bhinna Vinyasa, choreographed by Jayachandran Palazhy, on Day 4 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Time Takes The Time Time Takes
Darshan Manakkal

Spanish choreographers MC Guy Nader and Maria Campos presented Time Takes The Time Time Takes on Day 5 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Liquido
Darshan Manakkal

Italian choreographer-dancer Luisa Cortesi and music artist Gianluca Petrella presented Liquido on Day 6 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Closeness
Darshan Manakkal

Poland’s Zawirowania Dance Theatre presented Closeness, choreographed by Tomas Nepsinsky, on Day 6 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : La Suite
Darshan Manakkal

German choreographer Fabien Prioville presented La Suite on Day 7 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