The goddess is green-hued, and the dancer resorts to metaphors to enhance the visual effect. How? The gestures and movements are of nature—leaves, trees, birds. Okay. Indian classical? Yes, ‘stock movements’ from Bharatanatyam. Well, thereafter, the artiste goes off-beat. He dips his hand into green dusted powder, which goes on to mingle with the sweat of the dancer. He continues to perform; ends up adorning himself with green marks. Where all? Torso, head and even face.
The effect of Navtej Johar’s innovation is that of a “startling transposition of the spectator’s focus”, says fellow dancer Justin McCarthy. The purist may not agree, but then Tilt Pause Shift: Dance Ecologies in India doesn’t stop any from sharing what one felt on seeing a stage production. Artistes too have views. That way, Navtej looks clearer when it comes to writing. In his account, Locating Autonomy, De-policing Ambition, the dancer comes up with an interesting paradox: what has come down as ‘tradition’ is “beautiful, profound, fine and uplifting”, while its understanding is “oppressive, fabricated, insidious and mind-numbing”.