She also spent time at the Astor Chinese Garden Court, the Islamic Art Galleries and the Cloisters. Between these visits, Satpathy returned to India, where, in the quiet of her rehearsal room, she composed solos that drew on the sensations she had felt in the museum’s rooms. “The memories stayed with me,” she says.
In developing her choreographic ideas, she worked mainly virtually with a composer, Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy, and a dramaturge, Poorna Swami, both of whom pursue interests beyond the world of Indian classical music and dance. Narayanaswamy has worked extensively in the film field; and Swami has a degree in Contemporary Dance from Mount Holyoke College.
In addition to suggesting literary texts that could stimulate their imaginations, Swami also urged Satpathy to go beyond the usual rules of Odissi, a highly codified form involving a decorative use of the body, specific geometries of the stage and a transparent relationship with the music appreciates . Swami encouraged Satpathy to move in silence or against the music; to engage directly with art; allow yourself to be less than perfect.
“She’s the devil’s advocate,” Satpathy said. She was also an extra pair of eyes. “I would give her very honest feedback,” Swami said in a phone call from Austin, Texas, where she received her PhD. “I would point out things that weren’t working and ask them, ‘What are you trying to do?'”
“It was hard on the ego,” admitted Satpathy. But over time, she got used to going beyond the familiar. “Linear was my way, middle was my way, front was my way. But now I had to find a new way to justify the progression of the movement.” In her solos at the Met last May, she created intimate tableaus and paths through the gallery spaces where there was no clear front and movements not necessarily in perfect symmetry were executed.