Diasporic Ruminations 
- Aniruddh Vasudevan, Chennai 
e-mail: aniruddhnatya@yahoo.co.in  
Photos: Lalitha Venkat 

December 2, 2004

Parijat Desai and group had the entire audience stunned with their remarkably fresh and strong presentation of contemporary dance. Quiet/ Fire, a musing upon the different spiritual perceptions of the role of a warrior, had the freshness of a dream. Dressed in elegant cream costumes and executing martial movements, the dancers established the atmosphere of intense physical discipline and austerity.  

“Quiet”– a quality of sound…a quality of the absence of sound…”Fire”- the most brilliant visual idea…Quiet/Fire… a simultaneous existence of both…in the consciousness of the warrior…where an absolute quiet must be accompanied by the power and vigour of the fire.   

Severe antithetical demands are made on a warrior. He is not just the one who fights and kills. He must do so with no hatred. He must even be compassionate. A hard and testing life of inner conflict, where these paradoxes are brought to reside together, was portrayed through the nature and speed of the movements. Seen from this perspective, even the deft usage of Pathaka (open palm) and Mushti (clenched fist), which is very common in the martial arts, seemed to suggest the necessary coexistence of seemingly opposite things.  
It can also be seen in an expressionistic sense where all these appear to be symbolic of the diasporic condition – all the dancers of the group being Asian-Americans - which, more often than not, means operating in the zones where seemingly contradictory cultural values merge and flow into each other without leaving a definite boundary.  

As this reviewer had just finished reading Maxine Hong Kingston’s path breaking work, The Woman Warrior, he was rewarded with a beautiful experience where the image of the warrior developed on the stage juxtaposed with that in the text. This is the peculiar strength of contemporary dance. Promising no closure of meanings, it permits you to freely draw from other experiences and synergize them to create a new one for yourself.  

The retelling of A K Ramanujan’s “The Wall” was poignantly done using a diaphanous blue cloth that acted both as a saree and as apparently weak (yet strong enough to weigh her down) patriarchal control. Interestingly, because of the way it was handled by Parijat, the widowed woman’s resorting to tell her story to the wall did not evoke pity as much as admiration for her conviction to speak at all.  

The interactive session at the end of the performance digressed into a discussion of the semantic limitations of terms like “fusion,” ”modern,” and “contemporary.” One wondered how sensible it is to weigh the relative merits of terms that have different frames of reference. While “fusion” refers to the nature of a work, “modern” and “contemporary” have temporal resonances. And the mindless use of the word “fusion” has eroded it of any positive sense at all and it has come to refer to a “mixture of things” as one member of the audience put it. However, just as the term suggests, fusion stands for a harmonious coming together of styles – a process at the end of which it is almost impossible to pick out the individual influences like distiches from a bad poem.  

In Parijat Desai and her dancers’ presentation, one could see a judicious use of different vocabularies - Bharatanatyam, martial arts, modern dance and yoga. Together they constituted an organic whole, and indeed, the whole was larger and more powerful than the sum of the parts. It would be total injustice not to mention the strong and impressive performances of Aditi Dhruv, Cindy Chung and Shobana Ram.  

Aniruddh Vasudevan is a Bharatanatyam dancer based in Chennai.