ONLINE: 10 by 10 then, now 1 by 1

Dheerendra Tiwari in Kal in 1x1

When it was 10 by 10 back then, the auditorium was fully lit and the show sold out. Now, it is just a room with, at the most, an open window, nobody except family around you – 1 by 1. Then, it was a gleaming stage with dangling streaks in increasing order of numbers, now it is the terrace with only daylight. Then, it was the band of musicians performing live, now, it is just your own breath and bols keeping the rhythm. Then, there was the technically trained cameraperson chasing you, now, it is only you trying to take a video of yourself with a phone. Then, it was a company of dancers, and now, you have only yourself or just your family for company. Then, your soul soared with dance; now, it finds solace in dance.
The Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company—the Drishtikon Dance Foundation had mounted a production called ‘10x10’ in 2018 (click here for the report on the original). During the pandemic, they transformed it and in 2021, they released it as a dance movie called ‘1x1’, showing how each of them grappled with the COVID lockdown. Today, we are again in a situation of nationwide alert due to Omicron — let’s see how well we can identify with the circumstances shown.

1: Breath by Gauri Diwakar
‘My breath is trying to find space.’ When I spoke to her, Gauri said she got herself to light a diya every day during the lockdown. She also spent a lot of time using her hands to make shadow shapes on the walls. This was all reflected and depicted in the video performance. Her feet are tied, she cannot dance. Her face is masked. She simply spent time doing her household chores: sweeping, stitching, cooking. To her, freedom was going up and down the stairs of her house where she could catch a breath of fresh air. Gauri did not even dance one bol, but the portrayal was so direct, so honest about what she was doing at that time. The most impactful were her eyes on a masked face. Watch the video here.

2: Kal by Dheerendra Tiwari and Rashmi Uppal
They showed aane wala kal and beeta hua kal. The showed ‘a wishful and unbounded yesterday, but an uncertain present, a bare but resilient tomorrow’. Rashmi is on her terrace in a high-rise. She is taking chakkars to bols as she portrays the fact that the flowers are still blooming, birds still flying, and the water continues to flow. She is herself confined to the folds of her dupatta and the bars on her windowsill. Dheerendra did a hard-hitting act. His feet are moving to bols but they stop. They feel entrapped in that one space and try to shrink or refuse to move in Kathak. Those emotions are bogging him down. And finally, he opens the shut window. Watch the video here.

3: Triveni by Mohit Gangani, Ashish Gangani and Faraz Ahmed
The clip showed all three together on stage, singing and playing their instruments. All three were in their own spaces, Ashish on pakhawaj, Mohit on tabla and Faraz on vocals, singing a Shankar stuti. The sounds of the three separate videos have been edited and mixed. Watch the video here.

4: Charawali by Rachana Yadav and Anindita Acharjee
The four dancers had danced together to poetry on the moon in 10x10. In 1x1, they show that ‘even when the world is in turmoil, the moon rises with serenity, emanating peace, calm and beauty, trying to light up the darkness’. The visuals are very effectively presented. On one side is a moon, hazy, the carol ‘Silent Night’ is being sung with the usual spirit, and then in the background, you can hear the jarring sound of a Hindi news reader who is giving the news about the lockdown, curfew and restrictions. One could see the troubled face of Anindita, and a masked face below. But the visuals were not clear and did not clearly convey the intent of the dancer. Watch the video here.

5: Elements by Manoj Sonagra
In 10x10, this had dancers writhing on the floor, searching for the elements, their characteristics, and discovering them in every human experience. In 1x1, Manoj Sonagra, in the confined space of a room, explores the five elements: air and fire through the movements of his hands, earth by writhing on the floor and a bit of dust lying in a corner, water with writhing movements. The music score is good and the contemporary dance moves his trademark. Watch the video here.

6: Seeing the Unseen by Minhaz Khan
I still remember seeing the six dancers explore the six senses through their synchronized contemporary based on Kathak moves on stage back then. Minhaz has amazing balance and technique. The preview text said ‘What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen and even touched – thus must be felt by the heart.’ In 1x1, Minhaz is in a closed space trying his moves but the energy is leaving his hands. And he finally covers his face. As he hears sounds from outside, he puts his hand out through the window. It is indeed a very grim scenario. Watch the video here.

7: Suryashva by Sunny Shishodiya
Back then, the group danced like horses, with great vigour and coordination. In 1x1, Sunny depicted how ‘Every day starts with a new beginning and a new ray of sunshine. Hope.’ Sunny showed the horizon with the sun shining and birds flying. To the aalaap, he is shown to try catching the birds and also trying to fly himself. Helpless, he gives up with a pranam. Watch the video here.

8: Nirantar by Anjana Singh
The symbol for 8, in a horizontal position, is the symbol for infinity. There is no beginning and no end. It is nothing, and yet, it is everything. It’s one breath, and yet no breath. Everything is there and in between infinity. Anjana did ek pair ke chakkars in her room, holding a red dupatta tied to the ceiling. Watch the video here.

9: Nau by Aamrapali Bhandari
‘“Nau” means nine, but it also means new. The spring season marks the onset of new life. Flowers regain the glory they lost in the winter. The world is new, the grass greener, the sky is clearer. Does the pandemic suffice for this new?’ The nine dancers won your hearts with their agility and rhythm, coordination and dexterity back then. In this one, Aamrapali Bhandari does chakkars to the aalaap. She shows buds blossoming to the song ‘Charu taram vasate’ and suddenly she does a roll on the floor with clicks of the fingers. The spring is at its peak, but do we have the good fortune to see it? Watch the video here.

10: Dashavatar by Gaurav S.S. Bhatti
Gaurav gave a contemporary twist to his piece. Back then, the dancers moved their arms in fast rotations, which gave a feeling of mystique. In the present, it evoked the sensation that something invisible, intangible and dangerous has turned the world upside down. It has interrupted our normal routines. Battered from all sides, we are caged and upside down, and so are the gods. In 1x1, Gaurav rotates his arms upside down. The camera is showing the images in a split screen, with one screen showing the video upside down, almost like a mirror image. And then he clasps his face and uses his face and hands to project shadows, with his fingers opening and closing, to give the impression of a creature with tentacles from a sci-fi movie. The next image is even more disturbing: he seems to be drowning and a cloth moves up to cover his face. Watch the video here.

The movie is about these dancers, all of them energetic, agile, expressive and creative, and how they became lonely, depressed and inactive during the lockdown. In fact, some of the impressions send a chill down your spine. The movie has been made not with dance but about dancers. Maybe sometime they can develop it into a proper production to depict the responses of a lonely soul.