A performance piece uses Kathak and theatre to highlight the impact of harmful chemicals used in textile production.
With fast fashion becoming the world’s second-largest contributor to pollution, it’s time we reassessed our lifestyle patterns, especially the products that form them. This awakening hit Pooja Pant, a Kathak dancer, in February this year when she came across a research paper by an organisation ZDHC Foundation that is working towards the implementation of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by the textile and footwear industry.
Hence, with an aim to educate and entertain, Pooja has adapted her aforementioned concern in her latest fusion dance piece called Story of a T-Shirt. All set for a premiere at NCPA’s ninth edition of Contemporary Dance Season, the Kathak dancer reveals, “While I was reading the research paper, I came across some really hard-hitting facts that we, commoners, are not very aware of. For example, chemicals like phthalates and amines that are used in our daily products like shampoo, detergent and printed T-shirts, among others, are carcinogenic and can cause cancer.” Moreover, she also came across a case study of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA or C8) poisoning caused at the areas around DuPont Teflon plant in the US that had resulted in kidney cancer, abnormal pregnancies, among other diseases, in people exposed to it.
“And at this point, we are talking about larger concepts such as global warming, but these are certain intricate issues we are not aware of. So, I thought it was very important to speak about this. Since my medium and my vocabulary is Kathak, I kind of treated it through that,” says Pooja. However, the performer is quick to inform that the Story of a T-Shirt is an amalgamation of the classical dance form and theatre.
As the name suggests, the piece follows a journey of a T-shirt, right from the picking of cotton to weaving and so on. “Since I came to know about the phthalates present on the prints of a T-shirt, I thought why not make my protagonist a T-shirt. The T-shirt narrates the entire story and I have used a child getting cancer as one of the main conflicts of my story. Through that, we have talked about C8 and how it’s affecting the water bodies,” says Pooja about the storytelling aspect of her contemporary piece.
Even though the dance piece is contemporary, the dancer assures that she has not meddled with Kathak as a dance form. “The vocabulary of Kathak is so large and limitless that you can use it without even saying that I have tampered with anything, or that I have not used the traditional space. You can still find me using the traditional space to create something so contemporary,” muses the founder of Pooja Pant Dance Company about how classical dance form has given her the freedom to step out to experiment.
In fact, the dancer is of the opinion that anything traditional itself is a result of experimentations. “I feel that there are no barriers to any dance forms. Tradition is eventually something that has come out of a lot of experimentation that people might have done years ago. Keeping the form intact, you can still use the vocabulary to speak about a larger subject. So, I have chosen to keep that space here in the performance, where I am not tampering with the form per se, but I am using the form to speak that language,” concludes the dancer who had also choreographed the musical Umrao Jaan Ada recently.
As a part of Contemporary Dance season, Story of a T-Shirt will be performed at NCPA on November 9.