Disclosure: Dance Dispatches received complimentary admission to write an open and honest review of Mythili Prakash’ Here and Now performance.
Mythili Prakash, a US-based Indian dancer, was invited to perform at London’s 2019 Dance Umbrella festival. Last year, she was commissioned through Dance Umbrella’s Four by Four project – a celebration of the festival’s 40th anniversary. Four established choreographers nominated dance artists to create new works for the following year. Hence, Prakash’ Here and Now solo was born.
Although Prakash is recognised for her classical bharatanatyam dancing, Akram Khan recognised her as a ‘choreographer of the future’; and her show, Here and Now, incorporates choreographic techniques often seen in modern dancing. (The fusion of the two dance styles is also present in Khan’s work, like his epic Until the Lions production.) Mythili Prakash’s Here and Now piece showed for one evening in Croydon, as part of Dance Umbrella’s takeover at the newly re-opened Fairfield Halls.
Sonny Blacks’ Caribbean Carnival Extravaganza also came to Fairfield Halls shortly after the venue re-opened.
Bharatanatyam Dancer, Mythili Prakash
Mythili Prakash began training with her mother, dancer Viji Prakash, in Los Angeles – where she was born and raised. Notably, she played the wife of Pi in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (2012) movie – and was featured on NBC’s Superstars of Dance show. Prior to creating HERE AND NOW, Prakash has choreographed a handful of full-length solos, and she is currently touring in Akram Khan’s show, Outwitting the Devil. Back home, dance and choreographer Malavika Sarukkai is her dance mentor.
Mythili Prakash: Here and Now Review
Barely visible in the dark, Prakash slowly walks towards the audience and crouches at the front edge of the stage. Sounds of persistent drumming, accompanied by a woman humming, rise and drown the calming sound of waves lapping on shore. Prakash crouches and scoops up imaginary handfuls of sand, then watches it fall through her fingers, just as the grains would slip through the narrowest section of an hourglass.
In her choreographer’s note, Prakash reveals: “Here and Now is a reflection of my relationship with time as a mother and artist, navigating the human struggle to be in the present.” She addresses the “relativity of Time”, “how [times] dictates our lives” and the concept of “Timelessness.” So when her arms move peripherally from the torso, it’s like Prakash expresses the passage of time like the hands of a clock face.
The classical Indian dancer remains on stage for the entire 45-minute show, just downstage of vocalist Sushma Somasekharan and percussionist Sumesh Narayanan. During the piece, Prakash connects with two very different internal characters. She wavers between a divine and assured entity, peacefully basking in golden light – and a mere mortal, dashing through stomps and turns.
Watching Prakash move in slow motion is beautiful, as she intentionally carves through the space. She’s purposeful and majestic, even as she sinks down into a crouch, palms forward, head tilted back. But she’s also captivating as the choreography speeds up, sweat flying off of her body.
As common in traditional Indian dances, additional imaginary characters are introduced. Prakash brings a child to stage, presumably her daughter. She pantomimes embracing her and playing peek-a-boo, doting upon her baby. Her rapt attention holds, but when drawn away from her daughter, she seems lost.
Perhaps we only experience timelessness when we are completely present within ourselves and with each other – when we are able to forget our own mortality, ticking on.
Prakash delivers a technically impressive performance, matched by an expressive performance quality. The solo also clearly establishes and revisits many movement themes, but the order seems choppy, repeatedly hopping between similar scenes. Although inspired by Narada and the story of Maya, the piece truly seems to begin with the arrival of the child.
Have you seen Indian dance before – either on its own or blended with modern dance? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!