The air in the theatre crackles with a frisson of anticipation as seven dancers direct an unblinking stare at you. Their eyes suggest calm, menace and the ability to read your mind. Oh, and they’re all in various states of undress.
Dwarfed by an all-white set, without curtains or wings to seek refuge in, the dancers in Mandeep Raikhy’s a male ant has straight antennae are protagonists, spectators and objects.
To take on the complex question of what masculinity is, Raikhy and his dancers prowled the streets of Delhi looking for inspiration. The trick was to find answers without reducing masculinity to a series of images.
Raikhy uses visual, aural and sensual markers as starting points for kaleidoscopic investigations into masculinity. In one sequence, quintessentially Indian sounds of reproach – tongue clicks and grunts – force the dancers to attention, refusing to let them succumb to the comfort of familiar positions.
The piece is a delicate balancing act, where explicit gestures – flexed arms, cupped breasts, cradled crotches- arrange themselves into subtle statements.
There is a cockfight-like intensity to the choreography. An uncertainty plays out on stage, its results keenly awaited by audience and dancers alike.