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Sonia Sabri Company Explores Wellbeing and Womanhood in Dance: Part Three

4 Jul 2018

Virago - Sonia Sabri Company

Virago – Sonia Sabri Company

One Dance UK member Sonia Sabri Company’s Administration and Marketing Assistant, Shezad Khalil, explores mental health, wellbeing and woman in the final instalment of a three-part article series for One Dance UK. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

My Mind, My Health, My Wellbeing: The ‘Conditioned’ State of the Empowered/ Disempowered Woman

Part Three: I Am Woman…

When Sabri had her first child, a woman asked her the sex of the baby. When she explained that she had given birth to a girl, the woman stated “Oh, never mind” and then continued to inform her that she had “been blessed with two boys.” This played on Sabri’s mind for a while as it was the first time she had experienced this action of unfairly criticising the female to her face.

Not quite understanding or getting to grips with the notion of favouring the male species over the female, Sabri also heard a lot about female foeticide that was occurring not only in the Indian subcontinent but also in places close to home as Birmingham. The fact that this was happening on her doorstep right here in the UK really shocked her and further after reading an article in 2016 based on the subject of female foeticide this simply made her feel very angry. It began to make her think and question the representation and misrepresentation of the girl, the woman, the daughter, the sister, the mother, the aunt, the grandmother, in both the realms of the East and the West.

Virago is then an innovative construction that takes into consideration numerous years of research, and the many narratives and journeys as told by women. It is these accounts that have been interrogated, examined, analysed and experimented with since projects as Khoj in addition to Sabri’s own first-hand observation and treatment of the perception/misperception of woman!

But Virago is also a piece that explores the notion of mental health; issues as depression, suicide and even loneliness. In order to then extend this research further on from projects as Khoj, Sabri spent a lot of time in the company of psychiatric nurses and the spaces in which these medical practitioners work in order to simply listen and observe!

Interviews were also carried out with over forty women in order to gain views on what it means to be a woman and the representation and misrepresentation of woman. Quotations were then selected from these personal accounts and interwoven throughout Virago as part of its soundscape. And many of these words, phrases, sentences were also repeated throughout the piece symbolising the monotonous and constant and almost rhythmical vocalisations and patterns of behviour of the hidden, lost, voiceless and subordinate woman! But this cacophony of articulations from women of European, Middle Eastern, South Asian and African descent signified the universality of Sabri’s powerful and thought-provoking inspections of woman! This is to say that diverse issues as female foeticide to mental health was something that Sabri wished to speak to everyone about, right across the globe, regardless of gender and culture.

Virago is then a potpourri of different elements that are placed into a container, each bringing with them a different fragrance. These include not only the stories of women and mental health, but also expressive and artistic elements as lighting effects, digital sounds, voice, colour, physical theatre, classical Kathak, urban Kathak, contemporary dance, contemporary ballet, physical theatre, props. It is the amalgamation of all of these ingredients that opens a discourse with the spectator and allows Virago to become something much more than a piece of entertainment.

Virago continues with its 2018 tour. For more details of dates and venues, check: www.ssco.org.uk.