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4 Mumbai-based dancers to represent India at dance festival in New York

A new Mumbai-based dance production will represent India at a festival in New York. You, get to be first judge at their performance tonight

Four dancers are doing their stretches and warming up, a day before their final rehearsal for an electric performance in Mumbai. We are at the Sumeet Nagdev Dance Academy (SNDA) studio, where the company’s latest production, Dhrut (means speed) will bring together Contemporary, Breaking, Ballet and Kathak, synchronised with live music. The 50-minute production has been selected for the Erasing Borders Dance Festival in New York scheduled for August.

Dancers rehearse a day prior to their performance. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Dancers rehearse a day prior to their performance. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Choreographer Sumeet Nagdev, who heads the dance company, takes us around the spacious dance studio with mirrored walls and introduces us to the dancers. We are also shown a 12-minute video about the production. In the video, each of the four dancers — Tejaswee Sontakke, Kiran Shenvi, Neeraj Lohani and Melanie Testa — share how the production has changed them both as dancers and people.

(From left) Jayant Pawar (keyboard), Neeraj Lohani, Sumeet Nagdev, Kiran Shenvi, Vedant Lele (percussions), Tejeswee Sontakke, Sanchit Mhatre (live music direction) and Melanie Testa
(From left) Jayant Pawar (keyboard), Neeraj Lohani, Sumeet Nagdev, Kiran Shenvi, Vedant Lele (percussions), Tejeswee Sontakke, Sanchit Mhatre (live music direction) and Melanie Testa

Lohani narrates how he arrived in Mumbai from Delhi and had to sleep on the road at Worli Seaface to learn dance, while Testa, an Italian citizen trained in Ballet, tells viewers how she fell in love with India. Sontakke is in tears as she talks about her love for Kathak, and Shenvi reveals how he has never travelled outside Karnataka, and performing in New York was beyond his dreams. Nagdev breaks the pin drop silence in the room with his trademark sarcastic humour, “None of them have been on a reality show but they are fully trained to cry and create drama on camera. The only difference is that they really know how to dance.”


(From left) Melanie Testa, Neeraj Lohani, Kiran Shenvi and Tejaswee Sontakke performing Dhrut. Pic Courtesy/Sumeet Nagdev

The dancers ready for a run through and the musicians take their place. Sanchit Mhatre directs the live music and soon, the studio is filled with beats from the Djembe played by Vedant Lele. We are stunned as the visually impaired keyboard player Jayant Pawar’s performance makes us feel that he can see the dancers and plays in perfect sync. “Jayant doesn’t need a piece of paper to remember the notes. Sometimes, he forgets on stage though,” Nagdev jokes.

Conceptualised by Nagdev, the piece presents a fascinating idea where the past, present and future are in conversation with each other. It portrays the intricate relationship between time, space and speed. “It’s an abstract idea. The past, present and future are having drinks at the bar where they get into a discussion and realise that they are all bound by time. The idea materialised when we were invited to perform the closing act of the Kala Ghoda festival,” shares Nagdev, as he asks a dancer to repeat his move.

“We are currently trying to raise funds for the show at New York. We will be performing on Independence Day by the Hudson River. It was a big deal for the dancers to be selected. Some of them didn’t even have passports. We have managed to raise money for two dancers, and we have two dancers remaining to be funded,” he explains, as we try to take our eyes off a flexible dancer, who gracefully passes through a hula-hoop into the arms of a fellow dancer.

A hair band worn by a dancer performing Kathak comes flying at us while her footwork matches the pace of the djembe. As the beats intensify and the dancers who play the past and future quarrel, accusing each other of ruining the present, we can’t help but lose ourselves to the fluid and flawless movements transporting us to another world.

On: Today, 8.30 pm
At: Swatantryaveer Savarkar Smarak Sabhagriha, near Mayor’s Bungalow, Shivaji Park, Dadar (W).
Call: 24459197
Log on to: http://bit.ly/1U90BrG

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