In Two Minds
They are heard before they are seen: the four dancers in In Two Minds by Kalpanarts, which premiered on 30 September at Korzo Theater. Four pairs of feet are stomping the ground, filling the darkened theatre with their deep vibrations. When the lights come on, they highlight the feet, showcasing all the minutiae of their magnificent footwork – a distinctive trait in the work by choreographer Kalpana Raghuraman, who has an extensive background in Indian Bharatanatyam dance.
In Two Minds is a musical dance performance about power, manipulation and submissiveness, which places the complex powerplay between ruler and follower under the microscope. Raghuraman and artistic associate Gysèle ter Berg have been inspired, if that is the correct word, by the likes of Mata Hari, Mao Zedong, Donald Trump and Bikram Choudhury (the founder of bikram yoga, who was sued for sexual harassment). Mata Hari, an exotic dancer and – presumed – spy, seems the odd one out, being neither a despot or a sexual predator (or both).
Whether these inspirations shine through in the final product is in the eye of the beholder. But the power dynamic is definitely skewed. Sooraj Subramaniam is the first ruler to take the reins. While he is dancing a duet with Laila Gozzi, the two others (Indu Panday, Goda Žukauskaitė) stand dutifully at the side. When he comes near them, they start gently swaying in place, as if his mere presence were intoxicating.
There is a sharp contrast between the ways Subramaniam and subsequently Gozzi exercise power over their underlings. While Subramaniam bosses everyone around with big gestures, booming steps and impervious glares, Gozzi is most powerful while standing completely still, commandeering the stage and her minions with a bored flick of the wrist. In one particularly interesting scene, the three others seem to be sucked into her wake, seemingly pulled along by her magnetic force.
Still, I would have liked to have seen a bit more variation inside these power dynamics. Why not incorporate the two live musicians (cellist Maya Fridman, daf-percussionist Farid Sheek) into the powerplay right from the start, instead of having them sit at the sidelines for the greater part of the performance? The moments of transition, when the power shifts from one person to the next, could also have been more organic. With Gozzi, the shift is almost spelled out for us: she changes her outfit and – literally – lets her hair down. She even gets her own spotlight. Afterwards she returns to her old frock and scrunchy. Why not let the movement signal the change in dynamic, instead of the props?
That movement can sometimes be all you need is proven in the final segment, when the four dancers are jolted into action, but not by their own volition. It is as if an unseen force were compelling them to move, against their will. It is a powerful finale, and without a tyrant or temptress in sight.
Photos: Bowie Verschuuren