A man gasps and shakes his head convulsively – and though the sensation is of a body gripped by tremors, that quivering yet sustained alternation between left and right also subtly suggests another association: the rhythmic footwork of kathak dance. It’s a surprising but entirely apt opening for Inter_rupted, a new piece by 56-year-old kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas that draws upon her own sense of ageing.
The second scene extends her theme: a woman slides backwards along the floor, a river of cloth trailing behind her like a lifetime’s experience. Indeed the work has many such striking images. Tasselled tunics that enhance the dancers’ movement are tightened into straitjackets that restrict it. Mangaldas’s face emerges from a younger woman’s curtain of hair. Lights cause ghostly figures to bloom and fade on bark-like backcloth, one a bold silhouette, the others filigreed like leaf skeletons.
Mangaldas is a commanding and still astonishingly agile presence. She and her six dancers are at their best when they draw most directly upon the kathak style: they can hold a gesture until it hums, and the choreography makes much of their dizzying spins and pivoting turns, whether sending them into serene circlings or churning them in turbulent cyclones.
Yet for all its arresting moments, the piece does not cohere. Its eight sections may be deliberately contrasting in character, but they diffuse more than they focus her theme. In the end, Inter_rupted feels like a series of choreographic threads picked up and then discarded instead of knitted into a larger pattern.