Asian Music and Dance


The Gamechanger triple bill opens with Three, choreographed by T.J. Lowe and Subhash Viman Gorania. The light from a swinging light bulb reveals Subhash’s back as he sits in the silence on a cube-shaped casket. He begins to move his torso with a liquid plasticity that is his unique movement signature, while his arms contort and jerk and then ripple with a fluidity that speaks of both his classical Indian dance and his hip-hop backgrounds. Suddenly and strikingly he side-sits on the casket with legs diagonally aligned and feet delicately poised on the floor, facing the audience, and then, just as suddenly, falls to the floor. This begins his extraordinary work in and out of the floor, as though at times lifted out of the writhing and disjointedness into the light, combining sinuous, wringing movements of his torso with clear sharp staccato moments and isolation of body parts; his breath is at first audible but then sound and music take over. His movement is compact; he scuttles on feet and hands and then jumps like a small mammal; he creeps with wide reptilian movements manipulating his supple and hyper-flexible body. At one point, spotlights work in rotation creating a circle of light encasing him; the space is filled with the sound of strings and percussion. Along with the lights, his thigh-length, soft gossamer skirt over pale umber shorts adds to his other-worldly quality. He seems to be struggling, even fearful and seeking something. His refuge lies in light and the casket to which he returns to reprise the beginning of the piece until the lights snap out….

All the above is brought more performatively and dynamically into the second piece. To watch Metamorphic choreographed by Veen Basavarajaiah and Subhash is with a sense of wonder; it shifts constantly. It entertains in a way that the other two pieces do not achieve – Subhash’s and the lighting’s transformative skills and effects are compelling. Subhash, in waistcoat and trousers, stands downstage centre in the dark, his fast, fluidly-moving arms snaking and undulating in and out of the shaft of diagonal light leaving movement trails, until with what seemed to be a collective performer and audience gasp, Subhash is caught in the light in an astonishingly beautiful Krishna pose. From this point on, we see his meticulous sense of form and his classical dancer’s technical precision. This is evident not only in the kathak- and bharatanatyam-inspired sequences, but also in his changing characters. His dexterity in mimicking Indian street-life characters, their physicality and everyday gesture is singular. At the end of this piece it is as though the light has left an afterthought in the space…as though we had been offered a remarkable glimpse of another world. 

In Flyfrom, we see Subhash dressed in a suit and carrying a case which turns out to be like a magician’s hat from which props are pulled out. Over the first two-thirds of the piece, Subhash removes his clothing layer by layer, taken here as a metaphor for his divesting himself of conformity and embracing the primordial. The manipulation of his jacket and T-shirt once off, however, belonged to a choreographic exercise, whereas the final slipping out of his trousers was all that the previous clothes dancing was not: edgy and erotic. He smears his upper body with red paint – is this blood? If so, why was he bloodied? He finally dresses in the garment that has been hanging on the back curtain, perhaps a warrior tunic, in which he moves sharply with martial art strength and a strangely light quality to rhythmic music until he sinks to the ground. 

There is no doubt of the sincerity of this artist’s work and his exceptional ability to morph, but ideas, meaning and narrative often remain as triggers for him rather than for the audience. This can become alienating. Flyfrom reiterates Subhash’s intensity and the themes of insecurity and struggle. All three pieces in Gamechanger convey entrapment and being victim to external forces but the choreography is not always able to transcend its personal inspiration and focus. At the same time, Subhash’s dance skills are extraordinary and it is these that he is so distinctively attempting to deconstruct. That he is a unique and fascinating voice within dance that is striving to adapt, invent and transform tradition is undeniable. 



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