You can tell Subhash is a powerful, contemporary dancer and choreographer in his field: the fluidity of the physical expression that he beautifully refers to as ‘movement language’ is so organically infused into his speech. Talking to us about his recent vibrant work, Game Changer, the name of which was lifted from a raving review in the New York Times when he initially showcased his raw material, he stated: “the show incorporates a variety of intuitive media, such as paint, props and lighting to make a strong and visceral statement.” Game Changer is made up of three, separate meditative pieces called Three, Metamorphic and Fly From. “I enjoy exploring the theme of semblance: what might seem one way but is actually quite another,” he continued. “In the middle performance – Metamorphic – I specifically look at the blurred line between human and robot in the modern day. The actress Felicity Jones (Star Wars: Rogue One), who attended the NY show, really liked it. We rely on technology so much. If you leave the house without your phone, it’s as if you’ve left without your underwear! We can’t function without it. It’s become this fundamental part of who we are. We are breaking down as human beings; using social media to hurriedly communicate instead of having thought out conversations.”
Now a prolific international performer, including in the Bessie award-winning choreography ‘Ecstasy’ which toured in Germany as part of the ‘Get on the Good Foot’ show, produced by the prestigious Apollo Theatre, Subhash’s professional journey has been a more benign combination of the planned and the natural: “I initially worked in graphic design and wanted to work for Disney” he told us. “I actually only started dancing at the age of 23, influenced by something as incidental as the popular dance-off film ‘You Got Served’– my first dance class was in hip-hop. From there I moved onto Bollywood and classical dance, and my work, including the moves – leaps, floor work, and spins - continues to be adaptive and diverse.” Subhash is looking forward to collaborating with choreographer Gary Clarke on another award-winning piece, Coal: this time more play-based.
“This will be part of my 2018 tour in January,” Subhash said. “I will be playing the main male lead. It’s a love story set in the context of the trauma of World War One. We will be touring in India as part of the 70-year anniversary of independence from Britain.” Elaborating on what attracted him to the expressionistic form of dance, Subhash said: “dance is the best form for exploring interesting concepts for me. Others might use painting, writing, poetry or even technology. It is simply about what resonates with me as an individual. By extension, when I collaborate with other choreographers and dancers, such as with Saju Hari, Theo ‘TJ’ Lowe and Veena Basavarajaiah for Game Changer, I always consider what motions work best for their bodies and personalities.” This personal dimension extends to the way the limber, younger artist views approaching dance itself: “I truly believe anyone can dance,” he emphasised.
“If you persist hard enough you will get the hang of it. Some people expect to be spoon-fed, but if you work hard you can achieve it. As with most ambitions, it just takes time and dedication. I have 25 year-olds attending my workshops, worrying that they’re too old. But age is just a number -what matters is how you choose to interpret it.” Thus, as Subhash himself alluded to, the message of his colourful show Game Changer, goes behind the numerous profound messages to one immediate truth: that special, introspective bonus of having a career in the arts. “I don’t have one particular style,” he said, “because I have always been exploratory about the way I treat dance. I don’t have a signature per se – it’s just me embracing the space and what comes of that. It’s very personal. I’ve never been formal or systematic in my training either. All my pieces therefore have different meanings for people; they are moved by their own relationship to the concepts – they can find it poignant or funny and learn a lot.”
As his tagline proclaims then, Subhash uses ‘mind, body and soul to adapt, invent and transform tradition”, both within his profession, and expansively in life.
What are some of the other messages in your show?
The third segment, Fly From, is very political. It explores the concept of media its biases. For example, with Syria, terrorism and bombing, a lot is determined by propaganda. Metamorphic also looks at the American dream, and the pretence of that smile. You think you’re perfect if you have money and shiny cars, but in reality, everyone’s broken and it is more about letting go of those materialistic needs. The first piece is called ‘Three’ and refers to the three stages of human life – nothing is really certain in life other than death.
Performance artist Hetain Patel has said that: ‘if you fail at impersonation, you get better at knowing who you are’. Do you agree?
Yes! Three, for example, started off as a piece about bullying. You have to have the guts to scrap ideas and start afresh. If you want to create well, you have to accept that it will take time before you get it right. Change allows evolution as an artist.
You have humorous gestures in your work; how did you bring this in, and what does this do for the audience?
I’ve incorporated the perfect image of Indian men. You think Krishna, Shiva, Ram but if you go to India it’s different. In travel shows, they just show the best parts– the mountains and green hills. When I went to Darjeeling, it was more like a war zone: people begging, dust everywhere and cows on the streets. We wanted to bring that truth to the fore. I use classical dance to complement this too. The humour subverts and breaks the ice so the audience are given permission to laugh and not take all that they’re seeing so seriously. It’s education through entertainment.
Who are some artistic influences?
Aakash Odedra who I collaborated with. He also works in the same manner of using the body and the muscles. Akram Khan is another role model.