It was during her various travels across the world, that German choreographer Helena Waldmann realised how similar the distinct societies of Afghanistan and Japan were. “The two practices — that of wearing a burka by Muslim women and that of Japanese bondage were a deeper expression of human behaviour,” says the self-confessed nomad.
Her dance-theatre production features two female dancers, one clad in a red burka and the other bandaged in a white kimono who through intense physical movements, explore conflicting emotions such as pleasure and pain, freedom and restraint, as well as power and powerlessness. “The idea is to connect two very different cultural practices to address a global concern. Women around the world are entrapped and are content existing this way,” she says.
The veiled burka as well as the tradition of kinbaku, a Japanese sexual practice that involves binding participants using a specific system of knots, come together to offer a commentary on the state of womankind. “The traditional Japanese attire kimono, is conventionally not seen as binding. But the tight fitted wrap-around also hampers movement and restricts the body just like the burka,” argues Waldmann.
In fact, as Waldmann’s two dancers reveal through the 60-minute production, a sense of dualism exists in almost everything. “The burka may be considered restrictive, but it is also empowering as it allows the subject an uninterrupted view. You are incognito, but everything is within your cognisance,” she explains. “My work captures the pain and pleasure of our times.”
Waldmann is known for using dance as a tool to address political concerns. Her last production Return to Sender – Letters from Tentland addressed the global concern of migrants. This time around, Waldmann’s production features a video animation by Acci Baba and music by Reza Mortazavi who plays the daf, an Iranian stringed instrument.
Helena Waldmann’s Burka Bondage will be staged at NCPA on December 16, 7pm.