Seeta Patel is about to tour her latest one-woman dance theatre work Not Today’s Yesterday – it’s about the “whitewashing of history” and it must be good, because it’s just won the Best Dance Award at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
Your work has had a very wide range of styles from classical Indian dance to appearing with Gandini Juggling – what can we expect from your latest show?
Not Today’s Yesterday is a blend of Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance driven by a clear narrative. It’s using my experience as a solo performer and story teller in a new way, with a brilliant set and sound score that really takes you on a journey. It’s been really great working closely with a set and using my acting skills.
Your collaborator on this piece is Lina Limosani, who is based in Australia. How did you come across each other and what made you decide to collaborate?
Lina and I met whilst working with David Hughes Dance company in Scotland over a decade ago. It was a devised work and I loved the material Lina was creating. She was telling stories through really interesting and detailed movement and I wanted to work with her ever since. So when an idea and opportunity presented themselves, I decided to see if she was interested. She was and the rest is history!
When you are creating work together with someone else how does it work out in the studio? Do you have a clear expectation beforehand of who does what or does it evolve as you proceed?
I approached Lina with the original idea of exploring history that had been whitewashed and a bit about why that idea interested me. Then we got into the studio, looked at where and how whitewashing was happening, and for what purpose. We landed on the idea of fairy tales.
Fairy tales often have dark undertones, but more than that they are seductive. They draw you in in a similar way to propaganda or cherry-picked stories from the past. Several scripts and design ideas later we started piercing together a cohesive story.
In terms of movement, we used the text to work with gestural material that we then expanded, thereby finding an exciting meeting point for Lina’s movement style and my Bharatanatyam training. For both of us detail, precision, and nuance are key characteristics of our work. Lina is the overall director, but our collaboration has been truly symbiotic.
You have appeared in both contemporary dance and Bharatanatyam. What’s the impact of performing in two different disciplines on the body as a dancer? How do you keep in shape for both?
At present and as a maturing dancer I have ashtanga yoga as my primary method of preparation. But I supplement with jumping rope for stamina (something I learned to do at DV8) and swimming.
What’s your next project after this?
I’ve just come out of the first stage development period for my next work which premieres in May 2019. It’s my first scaled up ensemble work in which I’m reimagining the iconic Rite of Spring for a cast of talented Bharatanatyam dancers from around the world.
It’s really exciting and nerve wracking to take on such a behemoth of a composition that has such a strong place in the dance and music community. But it’s so wonderful to be able to bring the strength and rhythm of Bharatanatyam to compliment the work. Tour details will be out soon so watch this space.