Collaboration with India Cultural Hub

The Dialogue between traditional dance and textiles in India is an old one. The drapes and folds of the woven costumes have been used to add drama and flavour to the movements of the dancers through centuries. At Ekaya Banaras we took this narration further in the collection ‘Nritya’ by Play Clan for EKAYA.

Ekaya’s mastery over craftsmanship and heritage textile and Play Clan’s eclectic visual style, together, create an ode to a glorious legacy, where the symbolism of dance plays with graphic form and Banarasi weaves. These explorations of Indian classical dances on exquisite, hand-woven saris and lehengas are as true to tradition, as they are to the aesthetic of the contemporary Indian woman. It’s, therefore, fitting that Nritya’s next chapter be told, or yet accurately be ‘performed’ by the actual muses of the collection. Like how in a dance recital, the narrative focuses on the dance and the costumes act as the medium.

For Nritya’s performance, the narrative focuses on the weaves in this story, while the dancers are the medium through which they come to life. The project in collaboration with the new cultural blog by Suhavini Singh ‘India Cultural Hub’, focuses on the various dance forms that have inspired the collection namely - Odissi, Contemporary, Kathak, and Bharatnatyam. The dancers, recruited have performed a special composition created for Ekaya which are presented here in the form of five short films.

Shot in the beautiful white and blue restored haveli of the travel inspired lifestyle store Serendipity Delhi in Chhattarpur, New Delhi, the videos reflect the stories behind the pieces which the dancers personally wanted to wear. Choreographed to catchy and lyrical anthems composed especially for the collection, the dancing Nritya motifs get transformed into eloquent, heart-warming dialogues of yearning, love, and nostalgia.

There's a lot of poetry and freedom, each performance has its own story. In dance, much like in weaving, it's impossible to exactly make the same thing twice. The performance like the motifs on the Nritya outfits is all loosely connected, with characters weaving in and out of the narrative.

We start off with Kathak dancer Shivani Verma’s composition. The disciple of renowned Kathak maestro, Guru Shovana Narayan, is an empanelled artiste with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), under the ‘Soloists’ category. Dressed in a deep red lehenga set from the collection, Shivani’s quiet and serene rendition encapsulates Nritya’s warm and passionate femininity. The ensembles created for the Nritya collection with their golden dancing motifs are a perfect blend of timeless Banarasi style and modernity, and Shivani’s Kathak performance matches it, with the perfect combination of wisdom and sensuality.

Bharatnatyam dancer Asees Chaddha, portrays a more ethereal interpretation, a poignant plea at the heart, the yearning hopeful performance plays a soulful wordless story reminiscent of old-school storytelling perched between nostalgia and drama. The highly acclaimed dancer under the tutelage of Guru Smt. Rashmi Khanna (Kalyani Kala Mandir), undertook independent Bharatnatyam 15 years ago. Asees' dance takes her training to a new level, by using dramatic fusion and expressionism, aimed at revitalizing the Bharatnatyam form for a new generation. Her movements raw, and wistful, are performed with absolute precision and fluidity; give a lot of narrative weight to her composition.

Contemporary Dancer Revati Khattar, on the other hand, embodies a radically different aesthetic, yet the bold and detailed physicality of her work has a liberating impact on Nritya’s story and is significant to a collection that is both modern and traditional in aesthetic. Trained in various dance styles and techniques: Street jazz, jazz funk, lyrical jazz, modern and contemporary dance and classical ballet. Revati, dressed in a blush lehenga set is majestically alluring, her skimmingly fast footwork and effortless twirls scintillate with freedom, the overall performance is a transparent register of emotion. The bold and brilliant universes, and the compelling, enigmatic personalities, of Play Clan and Ekaya, come together and bring forth an arresting story for the Banarasi art form. The saris and Lehengas re-interpret the normative conventions of beauty that are usually associated with hand woven pieces.

It was, therefore, crucial that the dancers understood the narrative and thread their narratives that were the perfect blend of folklore and contemporary storytelling.

Simran Monga approaches her performance with a charismatic rendition of the folklore ‘Chahu Aur Chahi' which is about celebrating rain with your loved one. The rendition shows her mastery over the Bharatnatyam art form, which she’s been practising for almost 11 years under the guidance of Guru Mahesh George. Simran uses her body as a canvas to explore storytelling, following a narrative structure, she searches for truth in positive emotions. The bright orange set, brings a movingly buoyant refinement to the choreography, with both the ensemble and dance matching in spirit and style.

The last performance is put together by Chikirsha Mohanty, who has been practising the Odissi dance form for 18 years, under Padma Shri Guru Madhavi Mudgal at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya.

Odissi is a fiercely difficult dance to sustain, yet it’s honoured for Nritya by an excellent performance which reaches for both gravity and radiance. The performance is a whimsical and intricate conversation between two lovers that exhibits raw delight and affection. With her poised upper body and worldly smile, Chikirsha is every inch the glamorous hostess; helping us exit the story on an incandescent high