“hesitancies” return — Diaspora Dialogue

Jyoti: Homi Bhabha argues that “culture as a strategy of survival is both transnational and translational” (47). Clearly, your work is made and received through a transnational lens, partly, because it is made in London and also because you have lived across nations your entire life. But it also translates particular frictions, tensions and hesitancies that have rich complexities. Bhabha culture is translational because “spatial histories of displacement—now accompanied by the territorial ambitions of global media technologies—make the question of how culture signifies, or what is signified by culture, a rather complex issue.” (47)

How do you think the embodiment of “spatial histories of displacement,” that is so present in most of your work, triggers both a relatedness and identification by some, and a resistance by others in India and in the UK? Is it racial sometimes? Is it a prejudice to being a foreigner in India after living in the UK for most of your life? Are there other countries where you have experienced hesitancies that reiterate discourses of orientalism, exoticism, or a resistance to identity politics that emerge in a piece like Faultline?

Shobana: One of the unexpected features of the critical discourse around our tour in India was the response to Faultline. I had presumed that because of its connection to the 7/7 bombings and the characters of Malkhani’s book it would be “read” with some familiarity. Asian urban youth were the protagonists of both the film and the dance’s text, and I see/saw many similarities to these youth in the new shopping malls of India. However, one has to recognise that the written critiques probably did not come from this sector but mostly from more traditional dance commentators. I think the response that I looked for came from those who attended our workshops and seemed to feel totally at home in the vocabulary. There is a hugely invigorating debate going on in India about the qualities of what exactly is homegrown Indian contemporary dance. Hopefully, Faultline fed into that debate! One telling comment from a Delhi-ite about the performance was “the audience applauded enthusiastically but did not know why” or words to that effect. There was appreciation and puzzlement in equal measure. Perhaps geographical displacement in the dance text is one aspect that I could not communicate in India.

In some way I have learnt to live with hesitancies throughout my choreographic career. The seductive discourse of the The Orient was something that I had to work against in Europe.There was an expectancy about all things east of Venice which seemed to get in the way of people reading the dance. This was specially so when all my dancers were female and Indian. Multicuturalism, where it has meant unequal separateness, has also not been helpful to some one such as myself who is interested in the porosity of boundaries rather than their exclusiveness.

However when there is a critical mass of professional dancers and dance makers, as there is in Britain, there is created a large enough space for a variety of voices which brings provides a support of sorts.

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Works Cited
Bhabha, Homi K. (1992) “Freedom’s Basis in the Indeterminate.” October  61.