Shakti Chakravarty's The Woman Who Dances with the Wolves is a solid premise delivered in a way that is both mesmerising and repellent to watch.
Raised in Japan, with a Japanese mother and Indian father, Shakti now lives in Adelaide. Her unique style of dance is a mix of classical Indian and contemporary western. It incorporates dramatic facial expression and hand gestures, spins, scarf work and temple poses.
Shakti has brought her signature work to Australia for the first time, twenty-two years since she first performed it in an underground Tokyo theatre, then toured internationally in the late nineties and early naughties.
Dances with the Wolves explores the complex, conflicting and mystical inner world of femininity. Covering a wide-ranging emotional ground, through fear, rage, innocence, trauma, pride, passion and power, it challenges us to imagine and embrace the savagery we are capable of unleashing.
I have a basic level of appreciation for classic Indian dance, and understand that it’s one of those genres where the more you know the more you appreciate – each gesture is a word and together they tell a story. But without that technical understanding, it's difficult to find interest in significant stretches of this work. It just went on for far too long.
Good production is particularly important in dance. But here the lighting design was under-cooked, costumes were unecessarily risqué, and on-stage costume changes were awkward. The space and its setup didn't feel like a fit for the show.
The last time this piece was performed was about ten years ago, and you can’t help but feel that Shakti has got a bit rusty in that time. She is clearly very skilled, but some sections felt sloppy.
Undoubtedly ground-breaking at its debut, Dances with the Wolves seems out of touch with today's audiences.
As a revised and tightened 40-minute performance with better production values, this work would pack far more of a punch.