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

5 Apr 2018

Sonia Sabri










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

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

Part Two: Breaking Free…

Khoj was followed by another successful project that centred on women. This was Jugni (2013).

The term ‘jugni’ means female firefly in Sufi poetry and in Punjabi folk music. In the context of the latter, the author-poet thinks of himself as female, yet the singers are male. This is to say that the words of poetry centre on a female perspective yet only men are allowed to practise this art form and to vocalise the ‘female’ voice and ‘her’ story. This was then one of the starting-points of this piece as it examined the idea of exposing the voice of the female subject as expressed by the female. Furthermore, Jugni was also inspired by the paradox of how ‘woman’ is celebrated in her position as a Hindu goddess with extraordinary powers, yet in real life so many women are undervalued, mistreated and voiceless.

With an all female cast of dancers, Jugni then illuminates the personal experiences and narratives as contributed by women from all over the UK. These include stories of hardship as well as stories of celebration. For instance, at one point in the choreography, we see one woman enacting feelings of anger and rage only to result in her attacking another woman. These episodic dances epitomise the real life stories of some women. At the same time Sabri explains that the variety in these stories also bears resemblance to Kathak as a dance form. This is to say that this artistic dance form was only used as a basis for Jugni. None of the dancers were trained in the classical rudiments of Kathak apart from Sabri herself. It was then interesting for Sabri to see how these performers moved with just the basic principles of Kathak in connection with their own art forms.

Furthermore, Sabri also wanted to challenge the expectations of certain audience members when it came to the presentation of Kathak. Some spectators ‘expected’ the form to be expressed as an elegant mode of communication comprising of footwork and ‘chakaars;’ spins. Instead, what these viewers also witnessed was the darker side to Kathak or more rightly, Sabri’s disturbance to the stylised form and her interruption to the ‘expected’ and almost predictive vocabulary of the idiom.

But the message of Jugni is not one of hardship. It instead centres on the freedom of the female; that is, freedom of the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical states that equate to the freedom to be who she wishes to be without being judged and without being confined into parameters of fixity as expressed through codified behaviours.

Jugni was then another influential construction and ingredient that helped in the awakening and shaping of Virago.

To be continued…