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conversation: bloom

it's been five months since my last blog post and i look back on that post and am glad i wrote it while the pan was still hot. i'm glad i was honest with my feelings because that was exactly how i felt for most of the months after the twins were born. it could have been postnatal depression but i will never be sure what exactly it was. hormones are a funny thing, they can make you feel all sorts of things without much reason or control. we've now been in jakarta for about eight months and we're pretty settled. happier, more relaxed. life has been good to us and i've managed to come to a good routine with the children and then a week after that last blogpost i took 3 pregnancy tests and found out that we were expecting our third child. i stress on the word 'child'. yes, just one baby. phew! i went through the same first trimester of nausea, which i wouldn't wish upon my greatest enemy. fast forward to today, at 25 weeks i'm blooming and healthy. some time last year, my dearest abang Sean Ghazi invited me to perform a solo repertoire at Bobo KL in conjunction with Deepavali but with the upcoming baby i decided against it however, my crazy dance sister, rathi, did not hear any of it and well, we're now performing an odissi duet in 5 weeks. i remember before i got pregnant with leo and jade i always told myself that i would perform during my pregnancy but with multiples, many dreams go out the window so i thought that that was that. with this pregnancy it didn't even occur to me to perform. i mean i've got two toddlers, i live all the way over here now and i guess i was just plain lazy. but i agreed to do it, not really giving it much thought. all that mattered was that baby and i were healthy, i'm pretty fit or was pretty fit pre-pregnancy and the opportunity was right there in front of me. so no need to ask so many questions la...buat dulu! we kept this under wraps for the longest time because who knew what the future had in store for us. we knew we'd be performing but we didn't know which items, what we'd wear, what would the concept be, nothing. as usual we left things to stew on its own and when the time was right everything would fall into place (we hoped). i flew back two weeks ago to KL to get some photographs taken for 'bloom' publicity and i'm so pleased that the pictures turned out well but once the photographs were uploaded onto social media, well, 'bloom' took on a life of its own. based on the reaction from the public, it wasn't just another odissi performance anymore. it was so much more than that because our images spoke to all women at different stages of their lives. it went beyond our expectations let alone intentions. it wasn't about us anymore. it was a message and if i may boldly say, a movement, and a phase of my life that will be immortalised for all time. which brought me in front of my laptop, penning these thoughts down. why are we doing this? what is so important about this particular show? what does this show mean? how does this show differ from the rest? why now? why odissi? costume what is it about a revealed swollen belly that gets people so uncomfortable? when discussing about the costume, i initially said that i wanted to stitch a kurta set with jersey material so that it could not only cover but accommodate the growing belly. i would look neat and no too 'exposed'. but rathi (thank god for her), said that i would look completely fine in our full odissi gear. i was afraid that it would look gaudy, or that i would look too round and come to think of it, i was just afraid of the unknown. i did not know what i was afraid of most, but i would not have known had i not tried and tried i did and thank the heavens, it worked. keeping it traditional and classical rathi suggested that we tweak the repertoire slightly to make it more odissi inspired rather than completely odissi but i disagreed and said that we needed to keep this completely classical as there were already so many 'other' elements going into this program and that if i were to dance i wanted to dance properly or not at all. we laughed and joked about me sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage just swaying my body to the music and using hand gestures but the reality is that pregnancy is not an illness nor a disability and shouldn't be treated as one. as long as my doctor tells me that baby and i are healthy nothing has to change or be compromised. to quote a friend, 'Are we only able to challenge this perception (pregnancy) through 'modern' art? Are we saying something classical cannot say current and relevant things?' odissi has also been our first love and this performance will be our first one as independent artistes, which is a big thing to us. rathi and i created 'rehab' and 'return' to ease (and heal) our way back into the dance community but always felt that we weren't ready to present ourselves in an odissi performance as we wanted to build our individual personalities first. we wanted to come into our own and present something that was not derivative but something that was solely and completely us and let me tell you that moving out of any shadow is hard, hard work. but as long as your intentions and integrity are strong and intact it will happen in due time. embracing femininity and all that comes with it now this is the most special of all. our dance tradition is quite patriarchal, from our gurus, to the musicians, right to the tailors who stitch our dance costumes. so as a woman i've always felt that we've had to let our femininity take a back seat. as a child, dance was my only responsibility, which was easy. i had to juggle my academic life with my dance life and that was about it. i danced through puberty without giving it much thought and was constantly reminded that your artistic life ends the moment you get married. i grew up, got married and naturally i was treated as if i couldn't dance because being married meant that i couldn't commit 100% and you may as well not commit at all. terms like 'faceless housewife' were thrown around hitting me in the gut every time. this was only the beginning of the struggle and this struggle continued after birthing children. i had to not only rediscover myself, physically and mentally, i had to balance husband, children and the household. i had to prove to everyone that i was serious this time and i had to do it alone, with no one behind me to tell me whether what i was doing was right or wrong. as part of the rediscovery, i had to commission a new repertoire, which meant flying someone over, housing them, learning the repertoire while juggling babies. now, i'm pregnant and have decided to stop hiding behind my femininity. for a change i've decided to embrace all roles because they make up my identity. there may be a few people who don't see the importance of this decision but that is ok. it is far from a shallow, 'i want to dance because i am pregnant'. it is more of a 'i am performing and i so happen to be pregnant'. some have said, why can't you just have the baby first and then continue with your dance like everyone else? well...what's the fun in doing that? isn't that still hiding? i don't want to hide anymore. i want to do. i want to live. i want to dance. i want my children to know that nothing should ever stand in the way of what they feel is right. there is nothing ugly about a swollen belly. there is nothing ugly about the miracle of life. nothing ugly or weak about being a woman. so...that's about it for now. i'm sure things will further evolve as we gear towards the performance but as usual, i feel heaps lighter and i hope that this clears up any questions that may be running through your minds about the why's and how's we're doing this performance. i sincerely hope to see you in the audience, cheering us on and showering us with your love and blessings. it's been a long time coming...

photo by S. Magen


Oct 21 22 23 2016

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