'And She Spoke': Amplifying women’s voices

Conceptualised by renowned Bharatanatyam dancer Vaibhav Arekar, And She Spoke is an evocative dance-theatre production that amplifies women’s voices against the backdrop of a patriarchal society.
Stills from 'And She Spoke'
Stills from 'And She Spoke'

BENGALURU: In times of uncertainty, most people turn to art to break deafening silences and make sense of the world again. As the world grappled with a global pandemic, many artistes turned inward to push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zones.

One such process led to the creation of And She Spoke, a dance-theatre production, conceptualised by renowned Bharatanatyam dancer Vaibhav Arekar to bring forth the voices often stifled and forgotten. “During the pandemic, when we were held up in our houses not doing anything, I thought of creating a process with dancers I had never worked with to bring out something new and experimental that amplified women’s voices,” says Arekar.

In a period marked by stillness and introspection, Arekar, alongside a diverse group of dancers, sought to break free from the traditional art forms. “I feel that each of us as artistes has to work not only in our medium but also some other medium. It could be music, theatre, or painting...We thought of looking at women around us and using them as inspiration to find our own stories,” he adds.

Born from an online research lab during lockdown, the ‘process’ as Arekar calls it began with using poetry, paintings, and dance to share stories inspired by the women around them. “It was a six-month process, during which I thought a work could be developed. Because many interesting things happened and a lot of dancers opened up about their experiences,” shares Arekar, adding, “It’s not exactly a classical dance piece; it has open and experiential movement.” The dancers, though classically trained, embraced a fluid approach allowing them to challenge their muscle memory.

And She Spoke is not confined to the boundaries of Bharatanatyam or any single dance form. Instead, it embraces a broader approach, where movement becomes a vessel for storytelling. The production blends live singing, spoken word, and experiential movement, creating a multi-sensory experience that transcends conventional performance art. “Theatre is very important here because the stories we are telling are important. Dance becomes an extension of the emotion,” elaborates Arekar.

The 75-minute long show tells stories of abuse, patriarchy, and resilience shared by the dancers. “The concept was by me but each of these stories has come out of the dancers themselves. Two dancers reimagine the tale of Ahilya, a mythological figure often silenced in traditional narratives. Another dancer addresses the plight of women under oppressive regimes, drawing parallels to contemporary realities,” says Arekar.

Arekar’s vision was shaped by his collaboration with co-director Sushant Jadhav. “Sushant came in as the main director with me because I needed somebody else who could offer a new dimension to connect all the dots and put together a narrative,” Arekar notes, adding, “I would like to say that it is not an attempt to look for answers. They are just putting forth questions and feelings. It’s a messy world and this mess is what lets a work like this go on stage.”

(And She Spoke will be staged on June 22, 6.30pm at Medai - The Stage Bengaluru, Koramangala)

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The New Indian Express