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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Preparing for my theatre debut has been terrifying & exciting: Lata Pada

Guest Post: Lata Pada

Globally renowned danseuse Lata Pada, the artistic director of Sampradaya Dance Creations, is making her first foray in theatre this week, when she debuts in Mahesh Dattani’s Dance Like a Man. In this first person piece, Lata, who has the rare distinction of being honoured with both the Order of Canada and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, describes the thrill of acting on stage 

When Jasmine and Nitin first asked if I would consider auditioning for the role of Rathna in Sawitri Theatre’s DANCE LIKE A MAN, I was impulsive and readily agreed. After all, I could completely relate to the role of Rathna and the ‘world of the play’ certainly resonated for me. I thought this would be a piece of cake!  But little did I know what I had committed to.

Preparing for my theatre debut in Rathna’s role in DANCE LIKE A MAN has been both terrifying and exciting!  You might ask why a seasoned dancer like me would feel this way. After all, I have been on stage for the past forty years and should have grown accustomed to quelling my nervousness, taking a deep breath and holding my own in dance performances for a range of audiences – intimate salon type to large outdoor stages with thousands of spectators.  Why should a new but similar medium of theatrical expression challenge me?  Ah, that is the crux of the matter.

Dance and theatre share many techniques and devices. In bharatanatyam, I have been trained to be a soloist, interpreting the many characters in the poetry and lyrics we portray. We are trained to understand the spirit of the character, embody the emotions and gestures that are specific to the situation or role, hold the ‘sthaayi’ or dominant mood that the poetry suggests.  Essential to our training is projecting the delicate and nuanced expressions to large audiences without caricaturizing the role. Not different from theatre one would say.

Working with Mahesh Dattani and Christina Collins has been such an uncharted journey, filled with new learning and surprises, about myself and my co-actors. For the first week, Mahesh worked with us in Chekhov's ‘archetypal sensations’ like falling, floating, balancing and internalizing and veiling  ‘intent’ such as push, pull, smash, lift, reach, penetrate, gather, throw and tear.

What a powerful way of embodying the characters we were playing! For me a dancer, whose gestures and emotions are our tools of expressions, learning to literally ‘tie my hands behind my back’ and work with the intent alone was frustrating, but had to be done.

Decades of training with my dance gurus have polished the art of improvisation and exploring the ‘sanchari’s in the composition. Knowing that I had a responsibility towards not ‘tripping up’ my co-actors with forgetting a line or phrase felt like a huge weight to carry.

But I surprised myself.  Gradually my confidence grew, I learnt to ‘lighten up’ and be in the moment.  A huge thank you to Mahesh, Christina, Anand, Sid and Navneet for your generosity and support in holding my hand through this exhilarating new journey. I've had so much fun and learnt so much. Thank you Jasmine and Nitin for believing in me; I will do my best not to let you down. 

Dance Like A Man – Three performances. On Thursday, October 16, Friday, October 17 and Saturday October 18 - 8 pm, at Meadowvale Theatre, Mississauga, 6315 Montevideo Road, Mississauga, ON, L5N 4G7

Directorial Vision – Mahesh Dattani; Co-Director – Christina Collins; Set & Lighting Design - Joe Pagnan; Music – Deepak Sant; Stage Manager – Heather Bellingham

Cast Lata Pada, Anand Rajaram, Sid Sawant, Navneet Kaur

Tickets: $50, $30 & $20. Go to

Website www.sawitri.ca

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