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Conversations in rhythm

August 22, 2013
The protagonist (Joshinder Chaggar) is surrounded by her nemeses in the dance performance 'Conversations'. — Photo by White Star
The protagonist (Joshinder Chaggar) is surrounded by her nemeses in the dance performance 'Conversations'. — Photo by White Star

KARACHI: They say dance is the hidden language of the soul. Artist Joshinder Chaggar’s production of a dance performance titled ‘Conversations 2013’ at the National Academy of Performing Arts’ in-house theatre on Wednesday evening pretty much lived up to the above-mentioned saying. Even those who have two left feet (like this writer) were able to sense what the artist and her team of a dozen or so dancers were up to.

To put it simply, they were striking up conversations with each other and with their selves about one subject: life. And the symbol they used: birds.

Birds symbolize many things. They range from meek and dreamy to dangerous and predatory. While the bulk of the performance, choreographed and directed by Joshinder Chaggar herself, was done in an overtly symbolic fashion without verbal communication in the form of a dialogue, she made things a tad easy for the audience in the beginning by giving away the plight of the protagonist (Joshinder) making a character utter a few lines on her behalf.

The lament ‘Agar mera qad chhota na hota, agar main behter hoti’ (if I weren’t short, if I were better than I am) was self-explanatory.

Before that the agitation within the character is expressed through some vigorous solo dance moves by the protagonist indicating self-loathing. The self-loathing isn’t baseless. It is revealed layer by layer as other characters — Muhammad Ali Khan, Muhammad Talal, Erum Ero and Khaista Khan — join in to form the storyline. There comes a time when the audience finds it difficult whether the character of the other girl is a separate individual or an extension of the protagonist.

The trajectory of the performance typifies human existence. Some intense moments compel the characters to look back on life. There is mirth in the form of romance.

Khaista Khan and Muhammad Talal successfully manage to engage the audience first in their romantic gestures and then in the friction between them. This leads to larger issues and the question of meaninglessness in life raises its head. But life’s sea-sawing nature keeps the characters in its clutches.

One moment they are seen prancing around and pirouetting and the next negativity, in the shape of birds in black, surrounds them turning things topsy-turvy. The battle between the good and the evil inevitably ensues and as it often happens the tussle leaves the protagonist scarred and scathed.

‘Conversations’ is a bold act in the sense that it oscillates between being artistic and philosophical. The choreographer should be satisfied with her dancers’ hard work. Joshinder Chaggar knows very well how to manipulate space on stage, and she is a rising showbiz star without any doubt. However, there were a couple of instances where one felt that the synchronization was not up to scratch and the performers were laboring to get the moves right. One feels that’s forgivable because it was the premier night. They’ll only get better with time.

The dance moves were complemented by music composed by Ahsan Bari and Shoaib Lari. They did a good job, but they kept the mood very sombre throughout the hour-long show. Even the lighter moments were treated a bit too seriously. They depended heavily on the sound of percussions and drums, which is understandable because the director must have needed the footwork of the performers perfect. Still, an extra dash of wind and string instruments wouldn’t have harmed their endeavour.

Conversations will run from Thursday to Sunday until Sept 1.