Megan Gnanasihamany reviews Tangente Danse’s Éclosion, choreographed and performed by Tanveer Alam:
How do we understand the future of performance? In considering artistic movements, it is tempting to envision a timeline stemming from historical modes of creation towards the ever-advancing position of modernity. Classical forms of dance become markers of linear progression, consigned to influences on contemporary performances rather than perpetually evolving languages of expression. To dance beyond this chronology is to open an exchange with form; Éclosion, a solo piece performed and choreographed by Tanveer Alam, is a conversation between the dancer and the dance. Illuminated in neon, Alam moves in the language of the classical Indian dance form Kathak to embody a dialogue between light, space, and motion.
Éclosion opens in a soft, pink glow, silhouetting Alam in the centre of the floor. Slow movements stretch the air around him, and as the electronic score increases in tempo, Alam’s hands lead his body along invisible lines of purpose through the space. The percussive structure of Kathak, constructed by the punctuations of the dancer’s feet against the floor, plays with the sound. By the time the music carries a beat of its own, the point at which this shift took place is lost within the performance. Like an ethereal night club where the air is thicker, lighting by Chantal Labonté pulses in blues and reds that play with temporality, opening an endless dialogue between dancer and space without the constraint of time and encroaching dawn. Hanging in mid air at stage left, a single neon tube acts like the rivet in a hand-held fan; Alam’s steps carry him through the space but return him to the critical fulcrum of the light.
Alam cites the influence of Kumudini Lakhia, a fiercely innovative choreographer and proponent of contemporization. Lakhia proposes a dialogue with form, with the question of “What does Kathak need from you?” collapsing the ladder of progression into a lateral plane, consistently centering classical dance in the present. As history moves closer so too does the future. Alam dances his response within a stratum of time composed for discourse with form: a conversation between dance and dancer rather than audience and performer. There is a sense of celebration in Éclosion and, while the room is designed for a singular audience viewpoint, watching Alam is more akin to sitting on the side of a dancefloor watching a room full of people, all engrossed in their closeness. This inward turn establishes a distance between the audience and Alam’s performance; like reading poetry in translation, the precise beauty of language can only be grasped by its speakers and the future of form belongs to the practitioners. The bittersweetness of watching from the sidelines invites consideration for our expectations – who performance is for and what forms the gift of watching a body creating meaning can take.
The colonial myth of cultural evolution presupposes western thought, language, and art making as natural targets of progression. Modernization becomes synonymous with endings, so that dance forms like Kathak are relegated to an immutable past. Through Alam’s chorographic dialogue with Kathak, he unties chronology and engages in joyful exploration of what the performer can offer to form. Dance is embraced as an expansive language, unfolding blossoming colloquialisms, forming new vocabulary for the future we are performing in.
Megan Gnanasihamany is an artist and writer based on Tioh’tia:ke/Montreal island. They have performed as a feminist Tennis star on a pan-Albertan tour, presented on the impossibility of presenting performance, and filmed an exploration of the question, “how can I get plants to like me back?” Megan is interested in ecological criticisms, interrogating cultural concepts of labour, and the thoughts of their cat, Handpig.