When Does A Dance Piece End?

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

When does a performance end? Does it end when the audience leaves the auditorium? Maybe, it ends when the dancers leave the stage and disappear into the wings? Or when the dancers bow? Or when they stop dancing? But how do we know when they have stopped dancing?

At the first of the Platform Plus performances, on the second day of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017, the dancers didn’t bow or disappear into the wings. The audience didn’t clap, or leave the auditorium, but instead waited and watched as the dancers and the crew started packing up the set. Rather awkwardly, the dancers and the choreographer, as they continued their post-show cleanup, watched the still-seated audience.

This was Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen-size—a choreographic response to Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code—where no line seemed to isolate the dance temporally. Time stretched, unbroken between performance and post-performance as the audience and performers lingered on in the space, gazing at each other. The proximity between the performers and the audience also allowed for the dancers to slightly brush the legs or shoulders of members of the crowd. These brief moments of contact between the artists and the spectators turned the whole venue into a makeshift bedroom, creating a purposeful intimacy.

Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen-size at the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017 Magali Couffon

But at the Attakkalari India Biennial, Queen-size didn’t seem to make the audience uncomfortable as previous reviews from other cities and interviews with the choreographer had suggested. It was the last minutes of unsurety—the audience wondering whether the piece had ended—that were most pregnant with the possibility of multiple meanings.

Initially, this sense of “untitled time” seemed to mock the voyeuristic nature of spectatorship. But the warm and thankful looks of the team as they packed up the space wiped away the guilt of being a voyeur. While an amorphous sense of time was confusing to experience, it expanded the spectatorial boundaries and durational thrust of the performance.

In retrospect, this sense of time gave room to wonder, to ask if the gazes exchanged there could be read as the “queer gaze”, which “questions any ‘natural’ appearance and the transformability of our identities, [and] contests that there can ever be a unified subject who is the spectator of the world”.[1] We can extend this definition of the queer gaze to the nature of spectatorship that Queen-size invites us to reflect upon in its not doing anything, not dancing, not showing its choreography ended. Our position as spectators became vulnerable, transformable, and exchangeable with the performers. The queer gaze that the last moments of the performance successfully put forth unshackled the performance from its performativity by making it an act that we happened to encounter—we became watchers on the same ground as the performers. Any action by anybody, such as getting up and walking out became a part of the performance, and snatched the comfort of being a watcher who can leave the space once the dance ends.

[1] Tim Wray, “The Queer Gaze,” Thesis, Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, (2003) Heft 4, 70.

Sheetala Bhat is an actor and writer. She recently submitted the manuscript of her first book, Acting Woman: Performing Self/Performing Gender in Indian Theatre, commissioned by Manipal University Press, on the autobiographies of actresses in the nationalist era.

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