Steps spellbound

The soothing sea breeze that wistfully narrate, time and again, the legendary tales of Sindbad — the sailor from Suhar; the tomb of Bibi Maryam wherein rest the collective dreams and endeavours of an entire civilisation that still lovingly haunt us; the land of frankincense that enchanted one and all with its otherworldly fragrance; the endearing Jabal al Akhdhar and Jabal Shams that are part of the stunning Al Hajar mountain range; the traditional rustic life of Al Hamra’s villages such as Misfat al Abriyeen; the scattered historical forts, castles and towers that number in excess of 500; the magical pottery village of Bahla.

Indeed, the ‘Jewel of the Arabian Peninsula’ casts a magical spell on every visitor to the majestic land with its bewitching beauty and sublime culture and heritage. No one is known to have broken
that spell yet; it works on our very DNA and the admiration for the splendid land lovingly called the Sultanate never fades.
It’s quite natural that for artists, the Sultanate remains a perennial muse. No wonder then that Mansiya VP, a widely acclaimed young classical dancer, choreographer, solo drama artist and film
star from Kerala — God’s Own Country — turned into an ardent fan of Oman within hours of landing at the Muscat International Airport.
Mansiya is on a short visit to Oman in connection with the upcoming mega classical show “NATYAM 2018” to be staged on August 10 at Al Falaj Hotel, where she will be performing solo and
group classical Indian dance, along with Kerala’s most appreciated art form Kathakali and an experimental solo drama by other celebrity artistes.
She has been hailed for her brilliant solo drama performances based on the works of poetesses Madhavikkutty and Sugathakumari. In her solo shows, Mansiya explored issues of significant
social concern such as feminism, and intimate relations that carry the stamp of social taboo.
Now, completely enamoured by the splendour of the Sultanate, she has set her eyes on something else, and has willingly taken over the mantle of cultural brand ambassador of Oman. She is thinking of choreographing a uniquely designed classical fusion dance programme and an experimental solo drama focusing on the legend of the Sultanate and its rich culture and diverse attractions.
“I’d like to perform the dance as well as the solo drama across India on as many stages as possible,” she says, adding, “Back in India, awareness about the wonderful cultural heritage and amazing tourism potential of the Sultanate is minimal, which is very unfortunate.”
Talking about solo drama, it may be noted that it is emerging as a powerful art form with great possibilities to create awareness and form public opinion on various topics, effect social change and
shatter barriers that sabotage communal harmony and peaceful coexistence.

There have been terrific, successful solo drama models that generated rave reviews. In the superbly titled solo drama ‘Latin History for Morons’, renowned monologist John Leguizamo turned the spotlight on the nuances of cultural history, and attempted, maybe for the first time by an artiste, to correct disturbing and pervasive omissions of Latinos’ contributions to American history. It was a powerful visual tool using which John hoped to “redefine heroism, masculinity and ethnic identity for their generation” as a critic noted.
Sarah Jones’ explored how “future generations might look back on our sexist, objectifying culture” in her solo drama ‘Sell/Buy/Date. With razor sharp humour and bold openness, she ventures into the dark world female sex workers and the powerful men who cunningly exploit them.
One of the leading theatre projects that work to enhance the popularity of solo drama is the United Solo, a theatre group focusing on promoting one-person performances. The United Solo Theatre
Festival is the world’s largest solo theatre festival staged annually at Theatre Row on 42nd Street in New York City. Founded by Omar Sangare, United Solo aims to present local and global solo
pieces, bring creators together, exchange perspectives and assemble performers, companies, and institutions related to solo performance. The group believes that the single person on stage brings out the uniqueness of human being. “Through the exploration of existential themes, solo artists reflect upon political, sexual, economical, religious and social diversity,”the group states.
With solo performances holding so much potential, let’s hope the genre will soon gain popularity in the Sultanate, and maybe the country will host an international solo theatre festival in the
near future as well.