Pieces to treasure

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Dancer Raghav Handa’s first solo production is a tribute to heritage as well as a statement on contemporaneity, writes DEEPA GOPINATH

Raghav Handa’s Tukre’ (‘pieces’) explores some intriguing themes, but not through expressive dance as one may expect. In this, his first solo dance choreography, Handa delves into the work of his jeweller ancestors, emulating the precise movements that eventually lead to the creation of something beautiful, of sentimental value. But the practical theme of his ancestors’ work is used to explore a more sensitive and controversial subject.

Handa, an Australian dancer and choreographer of Indian heritage, presented Tukre’ at Lennox Theatre (Riverside) from 29 April to 2 May.

The dance pieces themselves are abstract, bearing an almost robotic quality that makes it difficult for them to be truly touching: the linear and rhythmic upper body movements of a goldsmith; Kathak-style spins to Bol (a series of spoken Hindustani beats); hands, in a series of mudras (hand poses) moving hauntingly through a beam of light set to a stellar musical composition by Lachlan Bostock. In his crisp, effortless movements, Raghav Handa’s training is evident. In his choreography, there is enough unpredictability to keep the audience intrigued.

The dance itself is a repetitive, occasionally bordering on tedious, exploration of aspects of Handa’s heritage. Where the story-telling occurs is in the multimedia interludes between dance pieces. The dancer’s mother on projected video, proudly displaying her wedding jewellery, the work of the jewellers in her family. Her memories of her wedding day and her hopes for her son to experience the same. Then, an unexpected moment of intimacy between Handa and his audience, a subtle statement about marriage inequality. Is he allowed to get married as things stand in Australia, his mother asks with a hint of sadness. Subtle, and yet one of the pieces of the puzzle that touches the soul the way art should.

The very last composition is poignant in a way that contrasts with the abstract nature of what is presented prior. Movement is minimal, whittled down to one pose. The dancer, stripped back to plain white cotton pants, gently puts on his mother’s diamond necklace, the one she promised him when he gets married. Perhaps a projection of hope for society’s progress, and certainly a promising start to a dancer-choreographer’s solo career.

Photos: Gregory Lorenzutti