Dance is an art form of the body moving in time and space, and Sumeet Nagdev Dance Arts will be navigating these two dimensions to present their work Dhrut in early March in the Seattle International Dance Festival.
Based in Mumbai, India, Sumeet Nagdev Dance Arts (SNDA) is reaching through cyberspace to collaborate remotely with Khambatta Dance Company to stage Dhrut for the 100th time for its Seattle premiere as part of SIDF. “Dhrut has been performed about 99 times now since its premiere in 2016,” said Sumeet Nagdev, the dancer and choreographer who founded SNDA in 2007 and continues to serve as its Artistic Director.
Nagdev describes Dhrut as his personal debate with time. “We are bound as humans to follow a linearity but our mind is constantly juggling between past, present and future,” he elaborated. “I wanted to bring this dialogue of the mind to a physical format.”
Speed and pacing are important elements of Dhrut. “Since this mind conversation is so fast and blurred, I wanted the dance choreography to look like that,” Nagdev said, “but at the same time, I want it to resonate with everyone having a conversation with themselves.”
States of consciousness also influenced the development of this piece. “I have had many concussion moments wherein I found some reality in déjà vu, sleep, imagination, and thoughts,” Nagdev shared. “It almost felt real at times, finding out the previous encounter of my déjà vu moment, understanding why is my imagination leading me where it is leading me now, and then why do I think the way I do.”
Nagdev previously had the pleasure of visiting Seattle and collaborating in person with Cyrus Khambatta, Artistic Director of Khambatta Dance Company (KDC) and director of SIDF, in June 2014. “It was amazing!” Nagdev recalled. “I somehow felt relaxed and at ease with the SIDF folks.”
That collaboration began with a simple email from Khambatta. “Cyrus was the one who found a synergy between our companies and so I invited him to a performance at the National Center of Performing Arts here in Mumbai,” Nagdev reported. “I curated a double bill with his company dancers and ours.”
The two choreographers also embarked on a more personal exploration. “Cyrus was looking to find his family lineage in Mumbai as a Parsi, which he did,” Nagdev remembered, “and it was so interesting how he was able to connect with his distant family in 2014.”
In the following years, Nagdev and Khambatta kept in contact. “I invited KDC for a double bill at the NCPA here again for the Contemporary Dance Season 2019 and it was so well received,” Nagdev said. “I was excited to be at SIDF with my company to present Dhrut in 2020, but then COVID!”
Nagdev credits Khambatta with the idea to share Dhrut more safely by choreographing the work online from Mumbai, allowing local Seattle dancers to present the work. “The dancers of SIDF are way better at collaborating online than I am,” Nagdev said. “They learnt most of my piece through the video references I sent them, and then I did a Kathak workshop for them and also got my dancers to observe them and teach them some of the phrases in the piece too.”
Effusive in his praise, Nagdev lauds the KDC company. “I learnt so much from them about this virtual process,” he said. ”I did my best of what I could, and the piece is looking so much better than I expected it to, and all the credit goes to the patience of these dancers.”
While Nagdev is thrilled that Dhrut will be presented to Seattle audiences soon, he is also looking forward to presenting work here personally in the future. “I loved Seattle when I visited last. It is definitely one of my favorite cities now,” he said. “I want to come there with my dancers and showcase our work to the audiences there.”
This is because, for Nagdev, a key part of dance is co-inhabiting space that is physical and not virtual. “Honestly, I am not a fan of virtual teaching or learning,” he admitted. “Sharing dance and physical arts is experiential, and the best experience is in reality.”
Seattle International Dance Festival’s Winter Mini-Fest runs from March 4 to 12 at the Erickson Theater, 1524 Harvard Avenue, Seattle, and online.