WE WERE STANDING on a metro station platform in Noida, and Niranjani Iyer stretched an arm out and shouted, “Auto!” An imaginary auto rickshaw passed without stopping, and her arm fell to her side as she turned to watch it go, before she repeated the action. “The movements in my dances are taken from the everyday,” she explained to me.
Iyer, a dancer and performance artist, had just finished rehearsal at the Noida Deaf Society (NDS), a vocational training institute for deaf and hearing-impaired youth, where she was choreographing a short piece with students for their annual day celebrations in late February. “The whole point is that when you are deaf, you speak another language,” she said. Body movement was natural to signing, she explained, but like with speech, sign language also followed set patterns that need to be overcome while dancing.
That morning, at the NDS office, in a residential neighbourhood in Noida, a group of 20 had been hard at work on the terrace. When Iyer arrived, the group was going over the piece—performing turns, spins and walks, blending steps from classical and modern dance.