The idea of mind control bothers Berlin-based director and choreographer Helena Waldmann. Control assumes the forms of power and powerlessness, pain and pleasure in Burka Bondage, a modern dance performance to be held at the Goethe-Institute, Max Mueller Bhavan on Sunday.
Waldmann, 48, a self-confessed “nomadic soul,” uses two seemingly diverse images to draw an east-west parallel. The burka is an Afghan gown that covers people and bondage a Japanese technique that shackles them. Both, she says, have restrictive as well as liberating qualities. “Speaking to women in Afghanistan, I came across this dichotomy. On the one hand, the burqa constricts them. On the other, making them incognito, it is beautiful, even liberating. Similarly, even as some Japanese women perceive sexual bondage as regressive, others see the experience of submitting to a master who manoeuvres the ropes as beautiful. But overall, Japanese life and customs are bondage for a lot of people.”
The idea for the production was triggered by the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. “Bamyan represents the people’s spirit that was blasted away. After the spirit goes, people withdraw from the outside world to find niches for their thinking and their bodies. Bamyan was the beginning of my conversation with young Afghans who struggle in the rut of a fundamentalist history and the young Japanese, who take this destruction in distant Afghanistan personally but have no faith in the oppressive traditions of a hierarchical society.”
Based in Berlin, working in Japan, Afghanistan and Iran, is she struck wanderlust? “I am a very nomadic person interested in the cultures of the world. I observe people’s body language closely. That is the way I connect to the world.”