PREVIEW: SKIN & QUICKSAND (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre)

Award-winning choreographer Hari Krishnan presents SKIN and QUICKSAND at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times

inDANCE’s Artistic Director Hari Krishnan isn’t someone who shies away from creating bold, provocative, honest and powerful work. Each time I saw an inDANCE show in the past, my heart danced with joy. In fact my only critique was that the shows weren’t long enough. And that is far from being a negative criticism. So when I found out that inDANCE was presenting a double-bill of new contemporary dance works at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, I couldn’t have been more pleased and excited!

For four days only, beginning Wednesday May 21st, inDANCE presents SKIN and QUICKSAND. Internationally recognized choreographer and Bessie (NYC) and Dora (TO) Award nominee Hari Krishnan, takes some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his choreographic process and what audiences can expect to see at his show.

Q – How did you come up with the show concept?

HARI: Brendan Healy the artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times invited inDANCE to be part of their 2013/14 season. From my perspective, in light of Toronto being the host city of World Pride 2014, I thought it befitting to premiere a new work honouring our gay visitors from around the world.

*Skin* started to emerge as a tactile story experienced by ‘gay-Greek-Gods’ indulging their 5 senses, in a manner of speaking! While researching the Queering of dance from multiple global perspectives with my students at Wesleyan University, I accumulated this cache of materials pregnant with the promise of a solid gay themed work. I worked with dancers who emphatically identified as gay and that dominated their intention.

I found commonalities in the ‘rites of passage’ experiences in their personal lives and mine evolving as crucial components of our art making process. To start creating *Skin*, as a gay man of South Asian origin, I limited myself to three significant moments/events in our gay life journey, from the many that we explored, which hooked me because they were unique and visually feasible to manifest through dance.

For instance, when I went to visit my boyfriend Rex for the first time in New York City in the 90s, he took me to Jones Beach and Fire Island. I was scandalized by the surreal goings-on! As a voyeur, I was riveted not just with the easily available, anonymous, rampant sex but the power dynamics of race used in negotiating that very short ‘marriage’ of the moment…a kind of beach-blanket political-tango! Amongst the gorgeous gifted dancers that work with me, I am blessed to have a truly global and two-spirited married-in-real-life couple. I’ve dreamed of creating an intimate duet for them. In *Skin*, I got to cherish that with, what I hope is a genuine moment of their honesty, that I get to share with the audience. What’s a gay sexual journey without addressing the ubiquitous vanity in all of us?! Get ready to meet my Narcissus…enough said!

*Quicksand* has been specially adapted for this remount. It is a deeply personal response to the established trope of what defines ‘tradition’. The work is a contemporary reading of the clichéd, ubiquitous depiction of nine archetypal emotions popular in Indian classical dance- *Navarasa* (love, revulsion, compassion, valour, humour, fear, wonder, anger and peace). Dancing on the quicksand of “tradition”, the work questions and challenges the notions of reality, art, identity, sexuality, culture, and heritage in the life of today’s global citizen.

Q. Describe your choreographic style?

HARI: I would best describe it as eclectic, global contemporary and subversive. First of all my dance training is extensive, varied and eclectic. As a result my choreographic style is informed by multiplicity- my Eastern psyche is informed by Asian cultures including India, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan and in the West, I love the contemporary dance scene in Europe and I am obsessively addicted to the avant-garde performance arts scene in New York City  – all these influences go into the complex mix of the global language that I use as a choreographer.

My choreography subverts cliché and stereotype, challenging hetero-normative archetypes and critically dismantling superficial labels like ‘colourful’, ‘ethnic’, ‘exotic’ etc through welcoming a complex process of open ended, progressive collaborations and activism.

Q. What can audiences expect when they see the show?

HARI: I hope for the audience to not only experience the sheer power of nine glorious, highly technical, deeply engaged and superbly charismatic dancers but I also would like them to experience two works which are complex, honest, sexy, explosive, provocative, thoughtful and deeply layered, representative of who we are as humans.

This show is for anyone with an eye for art, a soul for exploring and a gut for adventure! I strive to make inDANCE speak with an inimitable global voice. With open arms, we welcome anyone with an open mind.


Photo of Roney Lewis and Paul Charbonneau by Miles Brokenshire