(UN)THREAD: MeshGround Weaves an Intense Performance

Mar 22 2024.

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From that very first moment, when the darkened hall was filled with a crescendo of trills, ululations, growls, and yips, the performers had the audience completely captivated. Conceived and choreographed by Umeshi Rajeendra, (UN)THREAD premiered on the 16th and 17th of March in the Lotus Room of the BMICH. Artistic Director of MeshGround - Umeshi is well known for creating inspired, original, provocative performances that address social, cultural, and economic solidarity. For over a decade she has used dance as a mode of critical inquiry.  

With her latest offering, Umeshi gave us a powerful, sensorial performance in an intimate setting, one which invited, or really demanded, that the audience open their minds, and weave their own feelings and experiences with those of the performers. 

Speaking as someone for whom dance is strictly a spectator sport, the dancing was nothing less than breathtaking. The sheer energy and strength of the dancers, every single one moving with passion and purpose, each intent on conveying their own deeply emotional thread of the story, was truly extraordinary. When they moved as a group, one almost didn’t know where to look, as focusing on one dancer meant missing out on an amazing performance from another.  

This was a group of people who were the true embodiment of a single, powerful engine bent on delivering the ride of a lifetime. The seed for the show was planted in 2019 as a solo project, during Umeshi’s artistic residency with her mentor Burkina Faso artist - Olivier Tarpaga. She developed the concept further when she was in India in 2023 at the Invisible Dance residency.  “It was there that I decided the next step would be to work this research with a collective of dancers… It happened that MeshGround was offering the Pedagogical Performance Pathways course, and I invited the participants to engage with my choreographic process and work alongside a group of professional dancers. It was the perfect opportunity for the participants to learn and grow from, as this specific research required them to really confront their knowledge and learning.”

Describing the Pedagogical Performance Pathways course, Ashley Fargnoli, a dance/movement therapist who served as advisee for the course, and Dramaturgical support and performer for the show, said “The course challenged participants to think critically and reflectively. They gained profound insights into how dance and performance can have a transformative impact on society, as well as how individuals and communities navigate the world around them.” 

The original and collaborative nature of (UN)THREAD travelled across multiple disciplines. The music for the show was almost completely original, composed by sound artiste, Isuru Kumarasinge and Musicmatters Trio, Sumudu Suraweera, Sarani Perera and Uvindu Perera. As such, it was a perfect soundscape, supporting both movement and mood and enhancing the messages the dancers conveyed.  

Original poetry for the show was written by Megan Dhakshini “It was challenging to write on this very specific research Umeshi has been working on. Seeing the words come to life through the choreography and the dancers was exhilarating!” Megan herself appeared on stage to perform ‘Tangles’ with the dancers, and the powerful, oft-repeated line “When we arrived, we arrived in tangles” echoed in the mind long after the show was over.

Those who came to see Umeshi herself were not disappointed, as she took to the stage solo, commanding the full attention of her audience for a profoundly emotional performance that aptly demonstrated her trademark combination of incredible strength and sinuous grace. Every member of the audience likely left (UN)THREAD with much to contemplate.

The work asked tough questions and highlighted the vicious conflicts and moral conundrums that face us all. But one message was inescapable. In a time when we might feel that there is little we can do to make a difference in the greater suffering in the world, (UN)THREAD reinforced a fundamental truth - that we are all one, and that the actions we take, no matter how small, do impact people we will never meet. Why then don’t we do what we can?  Because our option should never be to just do nothing at all.

Pics courtesy MeshGround



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