Spanda was born out of a need to express myself in the multiple energies of more than one dancer, as against the solo option that existed and that I practice. I did not wish to explore the format of the dance drama, of which also I had been a part and knew so well having participated in Rukmini Devi’s inspiring modern day dance dramas that took inspiration from traditional genres like the Melattur Bhagavatamela and Kuravanji traditions of the South.
Instead, I wished to see the dancers I was teaching engage in a less self-centric form than the solo, without the need to convert all performance or story-telling into a male-female construct, with less paraphernalia to carry onstage in terms of dress and ornamentation and last but not least, breaking from the clichéd frontal, made-for-the-proscenium-stage presentations that the soloist conformed to.
To liberate oneself from both the solo and the dance drama form was a heady departure into the unknown! I used the male dancer and the female dancer with equal verve, using the energies of both to do the rigorous and the graceful, without bias.
I broke from hierarchical structures in the themes that we chose, as well as a hierarchy within the company. In Spanda, no one dancer has a role that stands out as pivotal, as in the hero-heroine oriented stories that we are used to presenting. In order to achieve this, I had to choose from pre-vedic texts that were universal in spirit; inclusive rather than exclusive, that was about nature and primal energies, rather than about kings or celestial beings with superior, more sophisticated skills than others about them. We had to break from the hierarchical structures that existed in myth, but also in dance companies where some dancers carried the show and others were relegated to props.
We launched Spanda in September 1995, with a performance in Delhi that was hailed as ‘path-breaking’. For ten years thereafter the group took on various shapes and sizes, depending upon the dancers available to me. From 2005-2012, Spanda was on sabbatical while I forsake it to look after Kalakshetra.
Since 2012, we have revived ourselves with gusto and perform worldwide and in India, as a cohesive and well-knit group, doing performances of the abstract and symbolic, of the traditional and contemporary, without forsaking the vocabulary of bharata natyam that we so love.