Dancing away to empowerment
Spreading her art and vision throughout the world, Sohinimoksha has globalized Indian dance and evolved as a novel stagecraft in celebrating womanhood, writes Puja Banerjee.
Enthralling the audience, performing for Danny Boyle at the Slumdog Millionaire premiere, to rocking the Andes with the jingle of her ghungroos in Bogota, mesmerizing snow-covered Moscow, to audiences from Adelaide to New York with her stagecraft and performances, Sohini Roychowdhury, the founder of 'Sohinimoksha' has been a premier ambassador of Indian culture for the last several years, bringing a change in the society.
Sohini has been producing, choreographing and staging several dance operas, in her unique "storytelling through dance format", where she celebrates the Goddesses Durga and Kali and their roles as figureheads and icons of women empowerment through the ages, in Hindu mythology and beyond, underlining the parallels and linkages in the historical connects with Mother Goddesses. She has been transporting these tales across the globe, through her dance operas and dance-discourses, sharing and re-telling these wonderous myths on stage through Sohinimoksha World Dance, highlighting the universality and relevance of the role of women as multitaskers and warriors in times – past, present and future.
She believes in "Connecting Civilizations" – promoting the unities in diversities, of spreading the messages of peace, harmony and universal sisterhood through her productions. Sufi symbolism, multi-religious chants, the poetry of Rumi, adaptations from the Mahabharata, the magic of Kalidasa, Sephardic melodies, Vedic hymns, Flamenco bulerias, BharatnatyamBols, elements from Greek tragedies – all coexist seamlessly in her music tracks and stagecraft – an automatic expression and constant reiteration of the world as one, if ever there was one.
A captivated full house at Mumbai's iconic Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2018 watched enthralled as "Shikhandi", the transgender warrior from the epic Mahabharata takes centre stage in Sohinimoksha's "Maya's Dream" dance opera, dancing with pathos riddled expressive abandon. A recurring character in many of Sohini's productions, albeit in different avatars, the celebration of the transgender as an integral part of human existence from time immemorial, is a reflection of Sohini's empathy towards and celebration of the third sex. In her off-stage life too, she has frequently championed their cause in her many discourses, talks and developmental activities through many NGOs. Sohini is well aware of the place, and role, of transgenders in the evolution of humanity through the ages, and their dramatic influence on many classical and modern tales, fables, literature, music and dance, in virtually every corner of the world.
A key component of her annual work schedule is her series of interactions with marginalised and distressed children under her "Healing through Dance" programme. She frequently invites international dancers from her troupe to train these children in foreign folk dance forms as well as share glimpses of the history and culture of these distant lands, so far removed from the daily challenges of their lives.
Having a "lifetime" contract with the Austrian Ministry of Culture, every summer she spends two weeks in the country, performing and conducting Bharatanatyam workshops across kindergartens, schools, colleges and Universities – as a part of a collaborative venture with the Ministry to spread awareness about Indian music and dance, and through it, Indian culture, history and mythology. During this annual sojourn, Sohini spends a significant amount of time with young Austrian children, introducing them, through her unique storytelling through dance demonstrations, to a country and a culture so significantly different than theirs, and instilling in their young minds an early sense of human unity in diversity, of the world as one and our connected civilisations.