I had the chance of meeting with Amina Khayyam who is an amazing kathak dancer. She said that she joined some kathak class just coincidently and then eventually fell in love with the dance form. She then started performing solo and choreographing her own dances. When asked about her latest venture, an interpretation of Fredrico Garcia Lorca’s play Yerma, Khayyam says she wanted to do more than just look beautiful on stage. She wanted to give something back to the community.

She combined the technique of Mime with kathak to tell different stories revolving around women’s issues like ‘’Yerma’’ which means barren in Spanish. Fredrico Garcia Lorca’s play Yerma offers a haunting account of a woman in an arranged marriage who attracts suspicion from her husband and the community due to her inability to have children.  Although written in 1934, women find themselves in similar situations today among some sub-cultural communities in Britain, prompting Khayyam to create a contemporary version of the tragedy.   Drawing on the dramatic potential of kathak, specific characters are fleshed out whose response to Yerma changes over time as friends and relatives eventually shun her.  Visually evocative, Khayyam as Yerma and three other female dancers in long dark dresses appear with striking white makeup, challenging the conventions of the classical abhinaya, or use of the face to convey emotion.

Amina says that even in today’s world women who are unable to have children even though there is no fault of their own are often blamed and looked down upon. Even though there are many modern day medical techniques to be able to have children people don’t opt for it or don’t even consider adoption especially in some conservative communities. Amina says that Yerma wears a face of death – there is no prettiness, no jewels, no shine.

We also spoke about the “Yerma outreach program’’ and all the nice work that Amina does for the elderly. She said that these older women have so many experiences and they are so willing to share. Amina conducts workshops at different community centres where she helps women tell their stories without the use of words. Only through facial expressions and hand movements. Amina said it brought tears to her eyes seeing how beautifully these women tell their stories which at times are very tragic.

She also spoke about working with Liaise which is a women’s centre in Woking where she encouraged many women to step into the theatre and experience something very different. She said that most of the women hail from very conservative communities and had never even gone out to a theatre before.

I was surprised to hear that even in today’s day and age, women face so many issues and don’t have the freedom to do what they wish in certain communities.