Grant Period: Eight months
Dayasindhu Sakrepatna is a Bangalore-based Bharatanatyam dancer, theatre artist, playwright and a yoga practitioner. He learnt Bharatanatyam from reputed gurus in Mysore and then studied at The Ballet Academy and Performing Arts College in Gothenburg, Sweden. He has extensively performed both Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance in India and abroad. This grant enables Dayasindhu to create a performance work titled Shiva that explores queer identities using dance, music and theatre.
The roots of this project lie in Dayasindhu’s personal struggles with his own sexuality. He says in his proposal that ‘growing up in a middle class family….I underwent years of struggle with my inability to accept my sexual orientation’. He then moved out of India with a longing for acceptance. In the course, he also moved away from Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music, Kannada music and poetry, all of which he loved so dearly, as he tried to distance himself from everything that defined his ‘Indian’ identity. Years of such distancing brought him to a new point in life from where he could strive free of his burden of history and reconnect with himself. He believes that this experience was for him the beginning of a new identity that was built on the principle of balance between his two cultural backgrounds and a rekindled love for Bharatanatyam.
The performance Shiva is therefore a deeply personal work and an attempt to find himself as a performer. Scripted by Dayasindhu with poetry by Sneha Ram, this performance will trace the story of a young man, a poet, coming out to his mother, through a series of letters and poems that express fear, conviction, choice and most importantly a deep longing for his mother’s acceptance. Each of these four themes branch out into other short stories, which are woven into the larger narrative. The piece will attempt to create a platform that will trigger dialogues around themes such as alternative identities, relationships, gender, sexuality, masculinity, peer-pressure and mob-violence.
In terms of form, the performance will attempt to draw upon and challenge the basic tenets of Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music, both of which are embedded with the politics of body and gender. The choreography of the eight dance pieces that will be part of this performance will be done under the mentorship of noted Bharatanatyam and Yoga practitioner, Yamini Muttanna. There will be an attempt towards combining the Natyadharmi, the stylised, with Lokadharmi, the un-stylised expressions. The music for the piece will be predominantly Carnatic, composed by musician and composer, Karthik Hebbar. For Karthik too, who as a Carnatic musician works with a form that has Bhakti as the leitmotif, this performance provides adequate challenge to explore other possibilities in its expression.
This project has been imagined as an iterative creative process involving eight performances each of which will build on the earlier performance. Through multiple improvisation exercises, the 11-member cast will be encouraged to reflect on the journeys of their own identities and their inner conflicts. These explorations, along with feedback from the audience, will inform their understanding and interpretation of the script each time they perform.
Shiva is scheduled to open in Rangashankara end February 2018. Subsequently, as part of this grant, Dayasindhu plans to take the performance to Heggodu, Dharwad, Manipal and other cities within Karnataka.
One of the experts who evaluated this proposal observed that ‘the theme is an important one. Explored in very few films in India, the themes around sexual orientation still remain extremely sensitive subjects, often silenced by the fear of social rejection …. Unlike gender and women’s issues, that now are themes of many contemporary performances – queerness and alternative sexual identities are treated as taboo subjects. Given the importance and sensitive nature of the theme, it is important that this work is carried on.’ Another expert said, ‘that he actively desires to explore abhinayam as a vehicle of expressing what he sees as the inner core of his sexual (and spiritual) being strikes me as very important.’
In the recent years, IFA has supported projects that have variously explored ideas around gender identity and sexuality, through different artistic forms. Shiva, will add to the oeuvre of such works. We hope that Shiva will be a significant step in pushing the boundaries of the theme it has set out to explore, performance and representation, including challenging forms of classical dance and music.