OTHER PLACES OF BEING/BAC
November 21, 2021
Sooraj Subramaniam has had a wide array of homes. He was raised in Malaysia, where
he gained a grounding in the Indian classical dance forms of Bharatanatayam and Odissi. He
took on Western forms in Australia and London, and is now based in Belgium, but continues to
work all over, constantly refining his vocabulary, learning new ones, and collaborating with
One can imagine how hard a global shut down would be for an artist of such mobility.
Oddly, the turn to digital connection allowed Subramaniam to reconnect with an old friend,
January Low. They trained together in Malaysia a few years apart, and essentially lost touch
when Subramaniam left for Australia. Reconnecting in 2014 led them to consider collaborating,
and the pandemic finally made it an, albeit virtual, reality.
Other Places of Being illustrates a holistic process of an artistic friendship. It so
happened that both dancers had been studying with Odissi teacher Bijayini Satpathy; their
shared training, as well as common performance ethos, could keep their connection vibrant
and fresh despite geographic distance and a history of being in and out of touch.
That said, the work does not focus on the dancing per se. Subramaniam and Low were
interested in practicing the craft of filmmaking, knowing very well that the nuance of their
dance form can only be truly appreciated in person. In this way, moments of dance are not held
up as the main events. We instead see fleeting details of the feet, face, and torso, primarily in
moments of practice versus performance – perspectives we would not see, either due to sitting
too far away in person, or due to the body parts, visible in rehearsal-wear, being covered in
costume pieces in performance. In these moments, the soundscore includes both Low and
Subramaniam singing the tal, or rhythmic cycle to which their movements correspond, syncing
them rhythmically across time zones.
Elsewhere the focus is more domestic. Evenly dispersed throughout is a variety of clips
focusing, naturally, on home-life – primarily cooking, relaxing with family, and tending to one’s
property. It paints a serene portrait of a time we collectively remember with great trauma. It is
similarly paradoxical in documenting the study of an ancient form in a contemporary context.
Overall, it calls us to put more time towards study, self-care, and reinforcing relationships in
times of prolonged instability.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman