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Aditi Mangaldas FORBIDDEN


Aditi Mangaldas, a 63 year-old Gujarati woman, is pictured on a close up on a bare stage bathed in a vivid pink light.

History confirms there is a deep-seated fear of female sexual desire. Why are women the world over, from conservative as well as liberal societies; sanctioned, judged, controlled, hounded, shamed and eventually punished because they have the courage to own their desire? What is at the root of this fear?

Evidence from all cultures is the subterranean elixir that nourishes FORBIDDEN, which traverses through a gamut of emotions and states of being, while reclaiming and owning desire.

FORBIDDEN is in three parts:
Awakening: Dream, Fragrant flower, Cage
Playing the Game: Denial, Adornment, Seduction, Rage
Burning: My story, Consigning to flames all that is FORBIDDEN

Artist’s Statement

There are countless insidious ways that taboos creep into one’s daily existence.
Social structures, mythology, popular culture, the culture of shame that women
live with, all become a subconscious stream that shape our behaviour. As an
artist, I feel compelled to confront these taboos. Sexuality is private but the
taboos attached to female sexuality requires and demands taking a stand on
the universal, public and personal front.

Stories that became the underground stream…

Mythology has a fascinating way of letting us enter a world of wonder and
intense imagination; A place where time, space and emotions are fluid and
amorphous. This is true for mythology from any culture in the world and yet
these very stories often reflect and re-enforce societal sanctions and mindsets,
over generations and continue to do so till contemporary times.

It’s important to realise that none of us are above societal conditioning,
however a liberal upbringing one has had. We think these taboos, images,
stories etc don’t impact us, but they do. Innumerable stories and observations
from across the world, forms the underlying river that feeds FORBIDDEN.

Stories, such as the onset of the ‘great war’ because princess Sita dares to cross the boundary made by prince Lakshmana; Or the turning into a stone of the beautiful Ahalya by her sage husband on discovering adultery! – even though she was making love to lord Indra disguised as her husband; Or when the celestial nymph Menaka loses her power of holding water in an unbaked pot just because a desirable thought crossed her mind while observing a beautiful
man! Or the great test of proving your chastity by being engulfed by fire. Of course, if you are chaste – you will come out unscathed!

As the ankle bells speak:
In FORBIDDEN, the ankle bells become the stream from the past; bringing with
it the profound and also the destructive.
… they become sexual desires that need to be shed due to societal sanctions.
… they become ornaments for the objectified female body by the parameters
set for the male gaze.
… they become the mirror through which these controls become evident.
… they become the beast of sanctions, that needs to be killed.
… they become the entrails of the devoured beast.
… they become the boundary that must be crossed and burnt.
… they become the inner courage that demands ownership.
… And eventually they become flowers that the young girl dreamt of; the
flowers of the awakening of sexual desire.

– Aditi Mangaldas

About Aditi Mangaldas

Aditi Mangaldas is a leading dancer and choreographer in the classical Indian dance form of Kathak. With extensive training under the leading gurus of Kathak, Shrimati Kumudini Lakhia and Pandit Birju Maharaj, Aditi is today recognised for her artistry, technique, eloquence and characteristic energy that mark every performance. Besides dancing and choreographing classical productions, both solo and group, she has broken new ground by using her knowledge and experience of Kathak as a springboard to evolve a contemporary dance vocabulary, infused with the spirit of the classical.

Considered a maverick in India, she has consistently broken ground, unafraid to confront social and present-day concerns. Celebrated around the world for the startling richness and intricacy of her dance and choreography, she was nominated in the category of outstanding performance (classical) by the National Dance Critics Circle awards – 2017 in the UK.

She was awarded the Gujarat Sangeet Natak Academy award, India 2007 as well as the National Sangeet Natak Akademi award, India 2013, that due to compelling reasons, she declined.

She has won much critical acclaim in major dance festivals across the world. As quoted by the Guardian, London, 2017, “Mangaldas owned the stage without trying to earn it……” Or at the Perth International Arts Festival, 2016, “Her artistry and poise, her dramatic gifts and unshakable technique are truly astounding; dance as effortlessly compelling as this is a joy to watch in itself, but underpinned by the questioning intelligence of Mangaldas, it becomes something transformative.” … and at the Edinburgh International Festival, 2012,“ Her concept of the intangible embraces the divine and the profoundly human: love and freedom, truth and beauty being as cosmically mystical as

In the words of Akram Khan, one of the world’s most celebrated dancers and choreographers, “Someone like Aditi Mangaldas is so important, because she is transforming the Kathak tradition from within.” – Financial Times, 2012 … or Shanta Gokhale, eminent Indian cultural writer and dance critic, “Her dance demonstrates what it means to be utterly free in body, mind and spirit to explore the world”.

Aditi heads the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – The Drishtikon Dance Foundation.

A few words from Shanta Gokhale, after the premiere of FORBIDDEN in Mumbai, Dec 4th 2022.

“I came away with every fibre in my body tingling with excitement… I was again enthralled by the perfection of Aditi’s technique, by the way she dynamised stage space, by the effortless beauty of her ‘nritta’ (body movement) and the profound expressiveness of her ‘nritya’ (gestures and expressions). The music offered a powerful parallel track to her movement and her light designer created his own magic without overwhelming the dance…”

For complete information visit the e-brochure here.

Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – The Drishtikon Dance Foundation

Artistic Team & Credits

Concept, Dance & Choreography Aditi Mangaldas
Dramaturge Farooq Chaudhry
Mentor Morag Deyes
Light Design Michael Hulls
Associate Lighting Designer Ryan Joseph Stafford
Music Composer Nicki Wells
Musical Arrangements, Production, Programming, Engineering & Mixing Nicki Wells
Indian Classical Renditions Faraz Ahmed & Ashish Gangani
Musicians Nicki Wells & Faraz Ahmed (Vocals), Ashish Gangani (Pakhawaj) & Mohit Gangani (Tabla)
Specially featuring Saskia Rao-De Hass (Cello)
Costume Design Kimie Nakano
Costume Realisation Sandhya Raman
Technical Director Christopher Flux
Rehearsal Director Gaurav Bhatti
Technical Stage Manager Nicholas Morris

Sung Text
Classical Composition Meerabai
Rosas Nicki Wells
Spoken Text
Adornment Inspired by the ‘Kamasutra’ & Seema Anand’s book ‘The Arts Of Seduction’
Story Aditi Mangaldas

Production Management Sangeeta Rana & Kusum Arora
Production Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – The Drishtikon Dance Foundation
Commissioned by Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – The Drishtikon Dance Foundation
Co-Commissioned by National Centre For The Performing Arts – Mumbai, Sadler’s Wells – London, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay – Singapore
Supported by Dance City – Newcastle, Rajika Puri – USA, OddBird Foundation – India
Photo credits Von Fox Promotions – UK

FORBIDDEN ©Aditi Mangaldas
Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – The Drishtikon Dance Foundation

Aditi Mangaldas performing in FORBIDDEN
FORBIDDEN © Von Fox Promotions