Three Indian dance works show three different faces of the country. In Deepak Kurki Shivaswamy’s NH7, Charan CS and Amaresha Kempanna are nattily dressed men about town who turn away from, and against, each other. Donning fluorescent jackets, they become site foremen, the urbane giving way to the urban, and act out scenes of aggressive one-upmanship. Kempanna, changing into labourer’s clothes, is beaten down until Charan joins him on the floor, now also in simple shorts and vest, both with one smart shoe balanced upon their heads. Though rough around the edges, the work’s arc and imagery hit home.
Hemabharathy Palani’s Trikonanga is technically and choreographically more polished, though on thematically safer ground. Palani begins as a statuesque icon whose sinuous hands seem to awaken her into sensuous life. It’s the first stage of a journey comprising a hybrid of classical and contemporary styles and encompassing a range of moods: Palani variously stiffens with uncertainty, grows ragged with rage and, most strangely, smears her face and licks her lips like a blind baby – an eerie scene that she somewhat undercuts by finishing with more familiar iconic poses.
Surjit Nongmeikapam’s Nerves begins with an iconic image, too – a figure in blue robes and headdress – but takes a very different turn. Against a video of the ongoing war in modern-day Manipur, the north-eastern state where his performers are from, four ordinary young men (none formally trained in dance) strip to loincloths and stamp out a martial dance, arms held like shields or thrust like swords: attack and defence, simply writ. There follow scenes of the men desperately dodging shoes that swing from the ceiling like low-flying missiles; of a brutal attack with a stick; of the performers caught in webs of blood-red elastic. It is a rough-cut piece, but its rawness is to the point.
If all the works are eye-opening, none feels fully realised: these are emergent choreographers, still more discovering their material than in command of it.