Mandeep Raikhy on the spaces that his choreographic creation Queen-size has occupied across India in resistance against criminalization of queer intimacies.
I made Queen-size in order to take it OUT.
Out of theatres that charge you a bomb. Outside of the proscenium space only a few access. Outside of the festival circuit. Outside of the metropolitan cities. Out, to the people, in various contexts. To students, to people who don’t watch theatre – to where dance can get some air and encounter life again.
Queen-size is a piece where the viewing of the work is an integral part of the work itself, where your own gaze along with that of the fellow audience members, as well as that of the performers, opens up fresh readings of the work.
I have encountered over 4,000 audience members in an intimate setting around the charpoy on which the dancers, Lalit Khatana and Parinay Mehra, perform intimacy evening after evening. In all 38 performances in 17 cities across the country since last year, these encounters have become an archive of sorts – an archive of different kinds of gazes; an archive of the various readings of the same work, of conversations around privacy, morality, love and rights. An archive of what performed intimacy can invoke.
In the 17 cities we have been to, we have performed in the most wonderful spaces ever. From a dining room / kitchen in Imphal, where the audience was invited to sit on the kitchen counter and negotiate with the gas cooker and chimney to view the work, to SPACES in Chennai – late dancer and choreographer Chandralekha’s home, a place where the country’s most radical dance and thought has emerged from. From a museum dedicated to conflict in old-town Ahmedabad to a law chamber in Guwahati. Not to mention the prayer hall we used as a rehearsal space in Imphal.
Each space lent a fresh reading to the work and has added to this growing archive of spaces that continue to stand for activism through the arts in these times of cultural censorship.
For details about the content and associated aspects of the performance like music and lighting, see ‘Queen-size’ Show Coming to Kolkata in the January 2017 issue of Varta and Art in Museums, Films, Ropes and Charpoys in the February 2017 issue.
Main photo credit: Kavi Datt (performance of Queen-size under way at Sitara Studio in Mumbai).