Last year, when artistes were returning their awards and a raging debate on nationalism was unfolding at the JNU campus, the field of dance remained apolitical. This really bothered Mandeep Raikhy, a dancer and choreographer. Around the same time, he came across an article by Nishit Saran titled ‘Why My Bedroom Habits Are Your Business’. This triggered Raikhy’s imagination and thus was born project Queen-size, which is a response to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality in India.
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Queen-size is a choreographic exploration that takes the form of a detailed study of the intimacy between two men. Played out on a charpoy, the duet examines the nuts and bolts — carnal, mechanical and emotional — of a close encounter between two male bodies. Explaining why this encounter was made deliberately visible, Queen-size poses questions about spectatorship, privacy and dissent.
“I was driven to make Queen-size for many reasons… to rid myself of these nagging feelings about the field of dance, to have a conversation with Nishit (Saran) after years by responding to his article, to respond to the ridiculously outdated Section 377 of IPC, to experience sexuality and intimacy as embodied subjects, to make the invisible visible, to make the familiar unfamiliar,” says Raikhy, who has pursued his BA (Hons) in Dance Theatre at Laban, London, and worked with the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company for several years.
Other than Queen-Size, he has created two full-length works — Inhabited Geometry (2010) and A Male Ant Has Straight Antennae (2013). On how he combines his response to Section 377 with choreography, Raikhy says that Queen-Size challenges dance and its known vocabularies. “The language of Queen-size is intimacy — performed intimacy. How can performed intimacy become a language for resistance? How can choreographic practice find its own way to respond to an archaic law,” says Raikhy, whose dancers and collaborators in the project include Lalit Khatana and Parinay Mehra.
Presented by Sandbox Collective, the project opened in Jor Bagh in Delhi this year. Sandbox Collective is a creative services organisation that curates and produces performances.
Queen-size has had shows in Delhi and in the northeast, and is planning to travel to south India next year. In Pune, Queen-size will be held at three venues — Artsphere (on December 18), Lost The Plot (December 20) and TIFA (on December 21).
On why he wants to showcase the work outside metros, Raikhy says there is a possibility of challenging certain codes of performance, “especially in the way the proscenium locks up the audience in time and space and takes the agency away from the audience”. “For instance, how does a viewer want to view the work, how long do they want to view the work, where do they want to view the work from, can viewing of the work become part of the work itself, can the audience became part of the performance,” he says.
“I have also been interested in getting out of theatres that charge you a bomb… out, to the people, in various contexts… to students, to people who don’t watch theatre; where dance can get some air and encounter life again,” says Raikhy.
Despite its content, the project hasn’t faced any opposition so far and Raikhy hopes that there won’t be any in the future.