Rudra – reflections

In 2013 I worked with South Asian arts organisation Manasamitra as a performer on their dance work ‘Rudra’, choreographed by Sonia Sabri. ‘Rudra’ – a contemporary Kathak dance piece tells the ancient Indian mythological story of Shiva, the destroyer of evil and the bringer of stability in a cycle of peace, disturbance, love and lament. The piece brought together classical Indian Kathak and contemporary dance with live music.

In the performance I played the role of Cupid, the cool cheeky dude who accidentally shoots an arrow at Shiva disturbing his meditation. Awoken and enraged, Shiva burns Cupid to ash. Devastated, Cupid’s wife Rati and Shivas wife Parvati convince Shiva to bring Cupid back to life and so Shiva resurrects Cupid (happy ending after all).

The ‘Rudra’ team comprised dancers, choreographer, assistant choreographer, musicians, sound composer, set and costume design and all the Manasamitra team working collaboratively to create and bring this wonderful production to life. We premiered the show at York Minster in November 2013 before touring in spring 2014 and later in 2016. I have wonderful memories from working with this amazing team and touring this work.

‘Rudra’ reverberates through the universe… a powerful force in the shape of Shiva that destroys evil and restores stability. This performance echoes the cycle of peace, disturbance, love and lament’ – Manasamitra

This show is definitely the most technically and physically demanding piece I’ve ever performed. Nothing could quite prepare you for those wonderful but terrifying sequences. A HIIT class ain’t got nothing on Rudra! Choreographed by the super talented Sonia Sabri, the show was packed with beautiful movement from start to finish combining contemporary and Indian classical Kathak dance.

In the piece the 4 performers each played a character: I played Cupid, Rati was played by Nikki Mead, Shiva by Alys North and Parvati by Jyoti Manral. In the devising process we developed gestures / motifs for each character which were then incorporated into the unison sequences that opened and closed the show. The opening sequence was gestural, sharp and precise whereas the closing sequence was a development of the first with expansive movement that travelled round the stage in an epic celebratory finale. Both these sequences were set to music that had 7 beats per bar. The syllables were counted as Ta Ki Te Ta Ka Dhin Na. I’d never counted in 7’s before. Apparently in rehearsals my face would turn ghost white from concentrating so hard!

Still, that concentration paid off. When we watched one of the performances back from the Spring 2014 tour our timing in the unison sections was perfectly on point! We were chuffed. Unison to be proud of.

Performing the premier of ‘Rudra’ at the York Minster was an amazing experience but it was possibly the coldest venue I’ve ever performed in. It was late November so as you’d expect a building of this size, it was fairly chilly. The stage we performed on had a black mat floor so felt fine for our feet but when we were waiting for the performance to start or off stage during the show (as we weren’t all on stage all the time) we stood on towels over the stone slabs to keep our feet warm…

I actually don’t know if my toes could handle this now. I’m older and my circulation knows it. I now get chilblains on my toes. Ouch. I tend not to do bare feet performances as much anymore as I’ve moved away from pure dance works and into creating and performing works that are in between dance and theatre.

Will I ever perform anything as dance heavy as ‘Rudra’ again? I’d like to, so long as I get to wear shoes! Or socks at least?!

Dancers – Lucy Haighton, Jyoti Manral, Nikki Mead, Alys North

Choreographer – Sonia Sabri

Assistant choreographer – Amarya Fuller

Composer – Shri Sriram

Set designer – Hannah Hend

Manasamitra Artistic Director – Supriya Nagarajan