Delhi-based dancer-choreographer Santosh Nair has returned to his favourite haunt, the forest, and this time, he has taken the audience with him into its throbbing heart. Five years after Nair depicted the horrors of global warming through the dystopian We Can Make a Difference, he presented The Mystical Forest at Kamani Auditorium on Tuesday. The piece premiered at the Kalanidhi Festival in Toronto last year, and the India opening was a collaboration between Nair’s dance group, Sadhya, and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
“I have always been fascinated by nature because it gives me a scope to escape into an imaginative world,” said Nair. Through contemporary movements based on Mayurbhanj Chhau, 11 dancers depicted a day in the life of a tribe in a mystical forest. The hour-long piece began with the tribe waking up at sunrise before tip-toeing, swaying and skipping through routines such as praying to a deity to keep them safe, performing rituals before eating, stalking prey in the dark forest and — because recreation is as important to forest people as to their urban counterparts — getting together for a round of vigorous sports.
“Over the one year that I spent preparing this piece, I researched the habits of tribes, including those of the Amazon forests. Their lives have a pure and earthy quality that I sought to depict in my work. I wanted The Mystical Forest to focus more on choreography and the music, so I had no sets and used props such as flowing fabric ,and intense lighting,” said Nair, who will bring the production back to Delhi this winter. It will also travel to various cities in the next few months.