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Stories by Hand by Preeti Vasudevan gestures to you to learn and think

by Robert Abrams
November 2, 2017
New York Live Arts
219 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 691-6500
Ms. Vasudevan's company threshdance.org
Stories By Hand performance program
Does one daring dance call forth another? It seemed that way tonight at Preeti Vasudevan's Stories by Hand. (While this was a solo show, it was also a collaboration with Paul Kaiser.)

The show combined instruction in the Indian dance art of gesture, in English, with storytelling, in a mix of Tamil and English. The gesture instruction was intelligible instruction, like when you were a child feeling you now had a grasp of six letters of the alphabet, realizing there are another 20 mysteries still to learn.

The gesture alphabet provided a thematic foundation on which Ms. Vasudevan built a series of stories, some based on her own life. The stories were both danced and told. Parts of the stories were veiled if you didn't speak Tamil, but this was okay, at least for me, because the movement was a window I could study.

While there were fewer sections in this show with full out dance than in some of her previous shows, the dance that was included was worth watching. It included both classical and contemporary dance, so it showed off Ms. Vasudevan's versatility.

Not that there was anything about this show that was showing off. It had a kind of quiet to it that let the stories be present.

So present, in some interactions with audience members, and in one story at the end in the difficult subject matter, that the audience might feel uncomfortable. I did say it was daring dance.

While Stories by Hand was unique, it is also bore strong resemblances to the last show I saw, Sit, Eat and Chew. This show also combined dance and stories, with a mix of English and another language (Chinese), and audience interactions and difficult subject matter that had the potential to make the audience uncomfortable. You never dance alone, even in a solo show.

Stories by Hand is well crafted art that makes you think. It pulls back the veil on both Indian dance and Ms. Vasudevan's life as an artist, like an open window that reveals her attempts to enrich her life, and in the process enriches yours. If you can get to NYLA in the next two nights, Stories by Hand is worth your consideration. If you can't, let's hope Ms. Vasudevan presents Stories by Hand, or a new set of stories, again soon.
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