Sanchita has curated, scripted, directed and choreographed many critically acclaimed dance productions. She is deeply committed, involved and aware of social evils and is known to raise such critical issues through her artistic productions. Some of these are described below.
1. UTTAR BEHNI – MYSTIC RIVER, MYSTIC POETESS
The show Uttar Behni, conceptualised by Sanchita Abrol, is based on the poetry of Padma Shri Padma Sachdev, a renowned poet, considered to be the mother of modern Dogri poetic discourse in India. Written in Dogri language, the poem pertains to river Devika or the Ganga of the Duggar land, one of the most sacred rivers in Indian scripture, and its analogy to female liberation.
Uttar Behni contains two entwined parts: A Documentary and A Kathak Dance Performance. A Short Documentary
This documentary by Sanchita Abrol details the history and significance of river Devika in Indian mythology and Dogri literature. In doing so, it narrates how the river is depicted in various Vedas and Puranas, like Nilmata Purana. It also details Padma Sachdev’s own personal reflection on the meaning of her poem, capturing her spiritual and emotional connection to river Devika.
The dance performance by Sanchita interprets Padma Sachdev’s poem in Kathak. As described above, the poem in its analogy to river Devika encapsulates female liberation through devotion to Lord Shiva. The performance portrays the journey of female liberation from the entrenched shadow of cultural tradition: a journey that begins shrouded in despair, loneliness and encumbered paths; a journey that transforms to strength through self-realisation and self determination in devotion to Lord Shiva; a journey that ultimately manifests liberation in spiritual mergence with Lord Shiva.
2. GHAR, PREM KI GAAGAR – THE HEART ALWAYS FINDS ITS HOME IN LOVE
The Kathak dance production “Ghar, Prem Ki Gaagar”, conceptualised by Sanchita Abrol is based on the classical Dogri poetry “Ghar” by renowned Dogri poet and Sahitya Akademi Awardee, Late Group Captain Randhir Singh. This performance portrays the intrinsic nature of love. The physical and emotional aspects have forever been connected and represent divine law. The spiritual aspect is embodied in the imagery of courage, beautifully powerful, the depth of which forms desire that guides human interaction in love. Eternally present, love never dissipates in humanity that comprehends its intrinsic nature.
Considering the thoughtful ideas of the poet, the script of this dance drama recapitulates “Love’s Philosophy” a poem by one of the major English romantic poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley, written in 1820.
3. YASHODHARA – THE BUDDHA’S WIFE
A renowned piece by Padma Shri Guru Shovana Narayan, based on the classic poetry by Maithili Sharan Gupt, depicting the sacrifice and the strength of Yashodhara who questions her husband Lord Buddha “Why couldn’t you confide in me? Would I have stopped you?” When Buddha asks her for alms, she offers the person most precious to her, her son Rahul.
4. MOHAN AND RAMBHA
This dance enactment was scripted by late Prof Ramchandra Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) in 1992-3 when it was first staged. It is based on an incident in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. The dance piece has been choreographed by Padma Shri Guru Shovana Narayan. The extraordinary creative partnership touches upon several burning issues that still plague our society – issues of gender discrimination and untouchability, about fear and greed and whether incidents are straining the fabric of togetherness of the nation. It is poignant and sensitive.
Based on the beautiful 17th century ghazal by Wali Mohammed Wali, ‘Jissey Ishq ka Teer Kari Lagey’, this playful piece portrays the joys of love: our desire and passion; our feelings or thoughts of insecurity, fear and concern for our lover.
6. SHADOWED COLOURS – A CHILD’S LOVE BEFALLEN TO WHITE DARKNESS
This production is based on the epic literary prose, ‘Agnisagar’ by the renowned author Padma Shri Dr. Shyam Singh Shashi which portrays through the ‘smriti’s’ of Manu, human nature as it passes cycles of time. It illustrates the excerpts of the unending journey of Manu interpreting ‘Manusmriti’ in social change. A child’s love is lost through, and ultimately to, the ages. It is replaced with the unrighteousness of humanity like silhouettes that know no bounds. A love now reflected in suffering by attribution to divine dogma. As spheres close and modernity diverges, all that is left is white darkness. In this solace, the vision of antiquity is contrasted with the derogation of nobility.
7. ANTARDWAND – THE INNER CONFLICT
This dance drama is a tribute to the great Statesman and former Prime Minister of India Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This dance is based on the inspiring poems written by Shri Vajpayee. Even though we have lost him, his sentiments and story will resonate strongly forever. The performance interplays between his emotions, energy and vision, and the message that he wanted to pass on to the world. Antardwand challenges our consciousness to free itself.
8. PRYUTSU (THE YODDHA) – ADORNING WITH PRIDE, AN ODE TO OUR WARRIORS
To pay homage to the unsung heroes, the brave soldiers of India and to commemorate 75 years of the Quit India Movement where India pledged “Sankalp Se Siddhi”, to create a new India that is strong, prosperous and all- encompassing; an India that will make our freedom fighters proud, this dance drama by Sanchita Abrol seeks to realise the value of freedom and the heroic sacrifices made by the warriors. This production is based on the classical Dogri poetry by renowned poet Late Group Captain Randhir Singh or popularly known as ‘Kunwar Viyogi’, the only Indian air force officer to be conferred the Sahitya Akademi award combined with the time-honoured poetry by Padma Bhushan awardee and freedom fighter, Mahadevi Verma. Accompanying these distinguished poets is the author of the book ‘Chameleon lights’, Ayushman Jamwal and his poem ‘The Valley Roars’. This dance performance illustrates the life of a soldier missing home, yet willing to leave behind everything to serve the nation. The inner voice of the warrior is filled with emotions, but the strength embodied in the imagery of courage depicts the desire to protect the country and it is this ocean of emotions that are enacted and expressed through Kathak dance.
9. CHAB DIKHLAJA – SEEKING LOVE
Chab Dikhlaja is a technical piece based on the Sufi concept that depicts a woman who loses herself in the love of another. It begins with a woman adorning herself in anticipation of meeting her love, only to find her heart lost in this splendour of his beauty. In this game of love, she falls again and again, desperately trying to meet him, looking for him everywhere, even for just a glimpse. She knows in love there is no loss as her heart already belongs to him and his to hers.
10. HARI-HARA – THE UNITY OF SHIVA AND VISHNU
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
(Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu)
The Hindu trinity is comprised of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the dissolver. Hari-Hara also known as Shankaranarayana is a philosophical term to denote the unity of Vishnu and Shiva as different aspects of the same Supreme God. Sanchita Abrol’s production Hari-Hara begins with offering salutations to Sri Vishnu, the Lord of the devas and the dancers showcasing the cosmic dance of Shiva. Through this enactment, the dancers offer salutations to the Parabrahman, the ultimate God, the omnipresent and the most auspicious. Symbolism and philosophy behind this dance enactment is that, the Shiva and Vishnu stand together and reassure us that our good qualities will be preserved and our bad qualities will be destroyed.
11. VEIL UNVEILED – A TALE OF RAJASTHAN
The splendour of beauty in love with another soul is constrained with the farewell of a bride from her family. In this choreography a girl unveils herself from a unique and confronting cultural practice from the state of Rajasthan that is followed to this day. Tradition reflected in a stick, the ends of which depict the new love found and an existing love to be lost. Challenging traditions, her soul perceives beyond to a consciousness within Krishna, where love is constant, not found or lost.
12. BELPATRI – THE LOVE FOR SHIVA
Belpatri is the leaf of the Bel tree (wood apple tree). Belpatri is an important element which is used in the worship of Lord Shiva. This leaf is trifoliate which signifies the holy Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It also signifies the three eyes of Lord Shiva. Sanchita through her dance expresses an untainted relationship between Lord Shiva and his followers akin to the profound relationship between Shiva and his Belpatri.
13. YAYAVAR – THE WANDERER, SHUNYATA MEIN ANANTA
A Kathak adaptation of the essence of novel “Numi; The Guarded Loop” by Nupur Sandhu. This dance drama unravels the mystical circle of life, wherein alien souls Nuha and Minha realise their surreal bond. Nuha on her journey, reaches the interlude between the conscious and subconscious modalities exploring the state of ‘Antarabhava’ amongst her existence. The beautiful spiritual road to peaceful existence of the self begins with uncertainty and through droplets of introspection across time, ends with total harmony with its true existential purpose. Finding immense refuge in the healing powers of the universe, it is this revelation that helps Nuha experience the eternal endless bliss through understanding the birth of YAYAVAR.
14. NAYAN TARSE – LONGING FOR LOVE
A short collaborative work which pulsates the morning bliss and the layered emotions it unravels when a Nayika (heroine) is longing for love in the colours of the morning sun. Conceptualisation and poetry by Sanchita Abrol, this piece represents Virahotkanthita Nayika (one distressed by separation), who is the distressed heroine pining for her lover, who, due to his preoccupation, fails to return home.
15. THE PEARL
Inspired by mother nature Sanchita Abrol brings an understanding of how she felt during COVID-19 through a brief embodied response. Using the language of Kathak, the performance illustrates how nature and its revival abilities can inspire us even in these unprecedented times to remain positive. Symbolised by a pearl, which develops in seclusion within an oyster, however, upon opening of the shell, a beautiful pearl has been crystallised. Sanchita expresses her emotions Kinesthetically, representing the time and beautiful space, capturing her movement in time. Concept and Choreography by Sanchita Abrol Sound Design by Matt Cornell, this piece was a short collaborative work done as a part of BOXED, Dance Deletes Distancing by @Narthaki. Dr. Anita Ratnam’s curation, this series of commissioned dance sequences, featured dancers across the globe.
16. RASA LILA – DANCE OF DIVINE LOVE
The term, rasa lila, is a concept in Hinduism that translates to “dance (lila) of aesthetics (rasa),” or “Dance of Divine Love”. This dance is part of the traditional stories of Krishna described in Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana and literature such as the Gita Govinda, where he dances with Radha and her Sakhis (gopis). Ras lila is considered to be one of the highest and most esoteric dances of Krishna. This classical performance by Sanchita, is based on the timeless works of poets such as Surdas, Meera and Kabir. The performance also dwells on different aspects of Radha’s “Shringara” or romantic love. The attraction between lover and the beloved as a metaphor will be explored to appreciate the relationship between the individual and the divine.
17. THUMRI MAALIKA – A GARLAND OF THUMRIS
Conceptualised by Padma Shri Guru Shovana Narayan, this piece is based on the timeless works incorporated in three thumris. These three thumris’ revolve around the imagery of the romantic relationship between Krishna and his beloved, Radha. The attraction between lover and the beloved as a metaphor is explored to appreciate the relationship between the individual and the divine (aatma and parmatma). The different moods of love will be expressed to show relationship with divine. The first thumri ‘Kanha Bin suni lage dagariya’ composed by Guru Padma Shri Guru Shovana Narayan and Sahitya Akademi Awardee Late Pandit Jwala Prasad, embodies within itself the feelings and tender emotions experienced by Radha, who is waiting for Krishna, whilst dealing with the pain caused by their separation. The second thumri ‘Kahe Ko mere ghar aaye ho’ written by Bindadin Maharaj and composed by Sahitya Akademi Awardee Late Pandit Jwala Prasad, depicts the Khandita Nayika, a concept from Ashta Nayika of Hinduism, Khandita (“one enraged with her lover”). The final thumri in this choreography is “Chado Langar mori bayian gaho na” written by Surdas. Despite Radha’s anger, her attraction to the divine is so all consuming that she cannot stay separated from her beloved. Her anger dissipates as Krishna follows her to the Yamuna shores and playfully teases her, hold her hand and put colours of divine love upon her.
18. DANCE SERIES – FAKIR – MYSTIC POETS FROM INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
Sanchita with her interest in Hindi, Urdu, Farsi (Persian) and Punjabi poetry has initiated a dance series “Fakir” which includes the work of mystic poets like Kabir, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Rumi, Meera, Surdas, Amir Khusrow and Bulleh Shah. This dance series is an ongoing work where many multimodal artists have come together to interpret the philosophies of such eminent poets. With a strong research on the works of these popular saints and sufi poets, this dance series allows oneself to enjoy the simple pleasures of spirituality in the existing modern world.
19. UPCOMING SHOW: YOGVAT – MOVING HARMONIOUSLY THROUGH THE ELEMENTS
Understanding the COVID-19 lockdown impact on the mental health, Sanchita with a strong belief in ‘Arts for Health’ has conceptualised a new performance ‘Yogvat”. Health and wellbeing are complex concepts and there is no clear consensus across or within cultures as to how these constructs should be defined. The yogic philosophy on wellbeing considers the centre (self) as inseparable from the cosmos. This philosophy awakens the unconscious to understand the subjective reality, innately connecting to the concept of wellbeing. Similar to the universally accepted notion of psychotherapeutic philosophy, this approach attempts to restore the mind-body-spirit harmony.
Progressing through the four principal pathways as described in yogic philosophy: Dhyan yoga; Jnana yoga; Karma yoga; and Bhakti yoga, this dance production explores this unanimously acknowledged innate connection and the philosophical path to overcome challenges and obtain emotional wellness. Encapsulating the understanding of four elements within a life, that is, air/wind, water, fire and earth, the dance drama inspires positive psychological functioning. Mantras and songs from Indian literature, coupled with the diverse interpretations of integrative wellness approaches, will be utilised to understand a contemporary notion of wellness.
For interactive engagement, the complex themes about wellbeing will be presented in an enjoyable and accessible way. This dance production is a unique multilingual production combining the literature from Hindi, Sanskrit, English and the language of music and dance. To donate and help our company in staging this event please click on the following link.