Aditi Mangaldas talks about existentialism through a Kathak performance based on poetry
uriosity has always fuelled Aditi Mang-aldas. As a dancer, she’s explored everything from space and movement to moods and colours, but as a person, her mind questions existence. “When you look at the stars, haven’t you wondered about the essence of this existence—where we’ve come from, what all this is about and where we’re going. Of course, there are no answers, but it’s a constant quest. I have tried to address this through Seeking the Beloved, a performance based on three poems by the poet philosophers Meera Bhai, Hazrat Amir Khusro and Sant Kabir,” begins Mangaldas.
The Delhi-based Kathak dancer will be in the city this weekend to participate in the second edition of Bani, a three-day festival of dance and music founded last year by Bharatanatyam dancer Alarmel Valli. “Mine will be a classical act (a little over one hour), broken into three pieces, with two musical interludes,” says the 54-year-old, admitting that she is looking forward to performing for the Chennai audience as they are “very special, full of rasikas. I am also looking forward to watching Alarmel perform (along with Bombay Jayashri).” On why she thinks Kathak would form a connect, she explains, “It is an apt vehicle as it is a synthesis of both the Hindu and Muslim cultures. And the poems I’ve chosen are by a Hindu, a Muslim and someone who was neither and yet both—just like I am.”
A student of dancer Kumudini Lakhia and Pandit Birju Maharaj, Mangaldas is not just a master of the classical, but also of the contemporary. Or as she puts it, “I plant the seed of Kathak and then water it with contemporary sensibilities. It’s not fusion, I take inspiration from everywhere—be it nature or other disciplines—and transform them in my compositions.” She, along with her 10-member dance school, Drishtikon, also train in yoga and Kalaripayattu. Naming Footprints on Water, a 1996 production—which combined narrative and abstraction, dynamics and total silence, classical and contemporary—as her favourite, she says that dance traditions have to change. “You can’t say something was done 500 years ago, so it should remain the same. In truth, it has evolved through the centuries and come to me. Now my history, body structure and emotions will be fed into it. To me, conservation is responsible change,” says the dancer, who is heading to Singapore next, to perform at the Kala Utsavam.
November 10, at Smt Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, from 7 pm. For passes, call 9841434125
—Surya Praphulla Kumar