Sometimes art is a great vehicle for addressing difficult issues – it can present and explore subjects in a way that makes them accessible; stimulating thought and encouraging deeper conversations.
Yerma by Amina Khayyam Dance Company does exactly this. Based on Frederico Garcia Lorca’s tragic play, this production interprets the story of a woman who suffers the social torment of a childless marriage (Yerma is Spanish for “barren”) through Kathak dance. This North Indian classical dance form is known for it’s storytelling, so is well suited to exploring the themes at work here.
The original story is set in rural Spain, which Amina transposes to an Islamic community in Britain. She explains why: “I grew up with stories around me from my own community where if a woman was unable to bear a child, she would automatically be considered to be at fault! The family would force the husband to re-marry so he may get a second chance to have a child. Although this is not the case with Yerma, everything else in the story resonates.
Europe has Yermas seething on the fringes of inner-cities. But I am aware that the media see it differently – merely as ingredients to sensationalise rather than get at the root – that hidden behind the insularity of these communities are women’s issues that still have a long way to go… It is easy to judge them as ‘backward, uneducated, different’; labels that only push the communities back to close their guard… So I approach the re-telling of Yerma using the passion of Kathak. I use Abhinaya – the gestural facial expressions – as the central movement within it, but I subvert it by negating it – so that my Yerma wears a face of death – there is no prettiness, no jewels, no shine. Rural Spain of Yerma is transposed to inner-city Britain; nothing has changed.”
Join SAA-uk at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance on Saturday 29th March at 7:30pm as we welcome Amina Khayyam Dance Company to Leeds to share this thought provoking production. Tickets are priced at £12 (£6 concessions), and we offer group discounts. Tickets: 0113 2445523 or www.ticketsource.co.uk/saauk
Women’s stories through dance – SAA-uk pushes the boundaries in how South Asian music and dance is presented, performed and experienced by audiences, artists and students. Visit our website on www.saa-uk.org or call us on 0113 2445523
If you are affected by any of the issues raised, there are support groups you may wish to contact: For infertility support and connect with peer-led groups via www.infertilitynetworkuk.com Dosti is a friendship group for Asian women based in Leeds, offering a range of support, including stress management and coping strategies www.dostileeds.org.uk.
The SHARAN Project provides support and information for South Asian women who have been disowned, forcibly or voluntarily left home due to persecution or harmful practices – supporting vulnerable women into independent living without fear. www.sharan.org.uk