Shiamak Davar provides a futuristic meaning to modern dance

In modern dance, as in English language, “selcouth” is defined as “strange”, “unusual”, and “rare” and, at the same time, is also defined as “marvellous” and “wondrous” and that is precisely how dance aficionado Shiamak Davar’s ‘Sel-Couth’ performance to a capacity audience at Mumbai’s NCPA, on November 3, 2019 could be objectively described.

The performance, like most other Shiamak Davar staged initiatives, commenced with an impromptu speech that dwelt from his faith [Parsi] to his friends [names were mentioned here with a rider stating that “I am not here to embarrass you!”], which was absolutely hilarious, an extreme to the seriousness of what was soon to follow.

Depending on your perspective, the colour of the setting was futuristic and yet, paradoxically, white, as the dance troupe was depicted with clean-shaven scalps. Although the sets were light, yet the lighted sets were heavily reflected with shades, intermittently focusing on dancers, either solo or in clusters, who were choreographed in a manner that continuously shifted from the stage into the aisles of the auditorium in what turned out to be an obvious extension. The dance movements remained unexpected and the speed at which they were demonstrated often left the eyes of the viewers stupefied, but certainly not weary. That, then, was precisely the charm of the choreography which was a fluid mix of ballet and modern dance, with a significant amount of creative floorwork showcasing the remarkable strength and flexibility of every dancer who, as was immediately evident, was literally perspiring for perfection but, simultaneously, indulging in their passion too.

Although Shiamak had earlier warned of a disturbing video that would be shown during the dance sequence, what was finally broadcast was taken to another level as it focused on the exploitation of women – with statistics to support the backdrop – and espoused an opportunity for the viewer to make a change. Shiamak’s philosophies could not have been more precise, and bravo to him for taking it to the public!

The music mainly took to the genius of singers Adele and George Michael too, whose premature demise still creates a vacuum in popular sound, with appropriate Hindi music also brought into the sound scape, as required, to provide distinctive musical direction that ran from the west to the east.

Fans of ballet and modern dance – and converts alike – were truly treated to an amazing mélange of both dance forms with choreographer Shiamak Davar presenting an illustration of his incredibly rich choreography which was, without a doubt, energetic.

The only downside to the journey, if any, was the quality of sound as playing the music loud did not necessarily offset its deficiencies and it may be the usage of external speakers, not the house PA system, which could be a corrective step for the future. Nevertheless, nothing should take away the 29-odd years of presenting the annual ‘Sel-Couth’ from Shiamak Davar’s passion for excellence, which remained untarnished as the 45-minute act remained hard hitting with its innovative dance steps, and its social message that now remains more relevant than ever.

‘Sel-Couth’ was indeed an inspiring piece of modern dance that illustrated Shiamak’s incredible talent in translating seemingly static forms into ones with energy and purpose as the props to emphasize the dancers’ athletic forms were specifically custom-made for the events showcased. While every dancer deserved accolades for their respective roles, dancer Aneesha Dalal showed amazing grace, strength, and flexibility in the lead role and remained the obvious “face” of ‘Sel-Couth’.

The power and fury of the performance was so strong that, in this fast-paced world, it makes me wonder whether Shiamak Davar should consider presenting ‘Sel-Couth’ on a pan-India basis and, that too, every six months…

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