Asian Music and Dance

Silent Space

‘In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.’

Pico Iyer

Silent Space is presented as a series of extracts over thirty minutes that will eventually lead to a full show. As it stands there is no visible thread weaving the episodic sections together. We move from a five-dancer (Priya Shrikumar, Seona Elise Robinson, Karen Watts, Kirsten Newell and Siva Sivapatham) group bharatanatyam choreography with pre-recorded music to a duet, to a solo with live flautist to smaller trios etc. Through the programme notes the audience learns that in Silent Space ‘performers both instigate and respond to sound, and its absence, through movement, drawing deeply from the tradition of South Asian dance’ – a promising premise; however, there is so little silence and space that I question the title. 

Opening with an excerpt from Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor Opus 110 is an adventurous choice but there is texture and melody aplenty for the dancers to hook into and accentuate their movements. However, silence is brutally unforgiving, and was unable to hide the ill-timed footwork codas that were meant to be presented in unison: the five dancers were consistently asynchronous – when the simple choreography called for one sound we were presented with five. This uneven technique was consistent across the entire body of each of the dancers. Facial expressions and focus in the same section ranged from resting to forced grimace to step concentration to natural smile – in this state faces weren’t able to amplify the choreography, leaving me unable to decipher the intention. 

‘When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.’ Haruki Murakami

Marion Kenny offers a compelling performance on flute and her playful call and response duet with Shrikumar is a moment of light that delivers genuine interaction and demonstrates the intrinsic relationship between movement and music that sits at the heart of this form.

Dance Ihayami is dedicated to the ‘contemporisation of Indian dance’ and ‘challenges ideas about Indian classical dance’. They are a lone South Asian dance voice in Scotland (in a country with 5 million people) delivering valuable classes, engagement and providing opportunities for community showcases. However, it is reflective of the dispersal of individuals and companies across the UK who find it almost impossible to form a critical community and share practice for the good of bharatanatyam. There is little for Scottish and Edinburgh audiences to compare it to, however, in comparison to artists and companies in England or who presented at Navadisha 2016. The choreography, execution (lacklustre air-cutting geometric arms are prevalent) and musicality are not equitable. 

Silent Space was presented second in a double bill with the Swedish hip-hop duo Lin Dylin who performed a piece about manhood and intimacy using their fusion of b-boying with contemporary dance.

It was an odd programming choice as conceptually or choreographically the two works shared little. I would find it hard to see Silent Space touring UK venues as there are other artists who are delivering a more complex narrative, executing a higher technique, shifting bharatanatyam forward and asking questions about how the form can resonate with audiences from different communities.

‘The world is never quiet, even its silence eternally resounds with the same notes, in vibrations which escape our ears. As for those that we perceive, they carry sounds to us, occasionally a chord, never a melody.’ Albert Camus



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