LET'S CONDUCT A SMALL EXPERIMENT. Extend the index finger and thumb away from the palm, as the remaining digits fist inward. Now, is this the yogic expression of chandrakala, the representation of an evanescent moonbeam, or is it the American ‘L’ for ‘loser?’
The first interpretation is a part of the vocabulary of Indian dance, in which socio-historic, spiritual and artistic influences intersect. The other is a mimetic form of Western slang—current, terse and expressive. When this single physical locution is performed on stage, in a dance that intends both meanings, there’s a cultural collision.
But as an element of dance, is the archaic amplified or attenuated by the overlay of the colloquial? Are we cheapening the ‘traditional’ notation or deepening the ‘contemporary’ meaning?