Asian Music and Dance


Every year Laban produces high-achieving graduates from its undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes and this year were no exception, for a range of artistic disciplines were presented to audiences throughout the evening of Tuesday 24 July at Laban’s base in South-East London. 

In this creative backdrop, new approaches are inspired and nurtured and there’s no better example of this than Pritika Agarwal’s Kareeb. This solo performance from odissi-trained Agarwal abstracts the classicism from the body and frames it in a contemporary aesthetic. Two projectors show the dancer’s feet (minus the ghungroo bells), mudras hand gestures and limbs in full focus, even before Agarwal enters the stage. When she finally does enter, Agarwal is almost ghost-like, solemnly walking until she locates herself centre stage. She acknowledges her audience with a sequence of tatkar footwork, accentuating the arch of the foot in demi-pointe and the pronounced stamp of the full foot on the floor. It’s as if she is stamping out her connection to the body, divorcing herself from this sensory shell. Cold and vacant, Agarwal extracts the narrative element, too; instead following an alternative line of enquiry for contemporary odissi. She recites a passage of text, a poem perhaps, but it is so isolated, or rather abstracted from its context, that it reads as text. Without context it becomes lost on an audience with seemingly no prior knowledge of the classical Indian arts. Perhaps this was Agarwal’s intention all along, as it adheres to the abstractive approach she is taking. 

Her sheer white, loosely-draped costume reveals the shoulders, legs, neck – stripped-down odissi, if you like – yet the garment is arranged in such a way that it follows the points of interest, the diagonal lines and angles which are so intrinsic to the odissi form. Agarwal vacates the stage, leaving us with the projected images of the body. Close-ups of carefully-placed limbs, the slow, sustained panning across the body; this is a multi-sensory vision and the slow speed of the shot makes it all the more visceral. The title, Kareeb, means closer, and there is an undeniable closeness between the body and the camera, the screen and the audience. 

Agarwal appears again once more, but only to make her exit. Spectre-like she walks the breadth of the stage, as solemn as before, her ghungroos now visible, tied like chains around her wrists behind the back, and audible too, for with every step that she takes they let out a timely tinkle. She continues to walk through the auditorium seats and out of the emergency exit doors. A powerful, unexpected resolution to the piece. 



Join the weekly Pulse newsletter and we will send you the latest news and articles straight to your inbox