CHENNAI: As much as Odissi dancer Arushi Mudgal loves the traditional form of the dance, experimenting with the art and bringing in a contemporary approach to it is something that she took up over the past two years. From collaborating with contemporary dancers in France to using dance to convey patriotism in her performance titled Swadesh in the UK, Arushi keeps expanding the boundaries of the art. The Delhi-based dancer was in the city recently for her performance as part of the Natya Darshan Conference for Kartik Fine Arts. As part of the dance festival themed Ullasitha Vikasat Sarasijam, which translates to Lotuses Blossom — The Creative Process, her production, titled Sopaan, explored the qualities of lotus from the physical to philosophical. Arushi talks to City Express about what it means to her to perform in Chennai during Margazhi, besides the journey of conceptualising the production.
Performance in the city
Every year, for Natya Darshan Conference for Kartik Fine Arts, the artistes are given a certain theme, which they have to interpret it in their own way and come up with a production. The convenor for this year, Malavika Sarukkai gave me the topic in April, when I was in France for one of my performances. I got back in July and started working on it. I did not want to do just some piece which had a mention of the word lotus in it, I wanted to challenge myself and do something more suggestive. Through my performance, I brought out the conflict between the physical world called Maaya and the self within. Lotus is a symbol of spiritual awakening, and one who has attained the spiritual enlightenment is represented by the 1,000-petalled lotus.
I have come to Chennai several times. Everytime I come here, it is a different experience. During the Margazhi season, it is the best because people are so tuned in. Last year, I performed for Krishna Gana Sabha, and before that, for Music Academy.
Art in the Genes
Everyone in my family are into music. My aunt Madhavi Mudgal is an Odissi dancer, and when I was a kid, I used to simply walk into her dance classes. So, I really do not know when I started learning dance formally from her. And as far as music is concerned, I enjoy singing so much that I don’t want to take it up as a profession. Also, for my production Sopaan, I have recorded a small piece in my voice for the first time.
Taking the Creative Route
Of late, the performances I have thrown have been very challenging. Till about two years ago, I was just doing my traditional performances. Though I love the traditional dance and I am not steering away from it, after a point, an artiste would want to what he or she has learnt, and come up with something new, all by himself or herself. It is very natural.
My dance is definitely traditional, but I think it is the approach that I take which makes it different. There are people who might say my dance is different from the usual Odissi performance, but it is part of the process. Probably, someday I might go back to doing it just the way I learnt it.