The Two Fridas is complex to develop. You could make a piece about either artist as there is so much rich source material, as well as their lively personalities. Yet here we are, making a work about both of them!’ – Balbir Singh

The parallels in the two artists’ lives have been noted before.  But the idea of interpreting this through dance is, as far as we know, new.

Photo: Malcolm Johnson

As a choreographer, Balbir’s work does exactly that: his dual training in Kathak and contemporary dance mean his work often seeks to synthesise these two apparently contradictory worlds. The Indian connection to Amrita Sher-Gil is another strand of the concept that drew him to explore the idea further. As Balbir points out: “Both artists are today appreciated far more than during their own lifetimes, but Frida Kahlo has perhaps entered the popular consciousness most widely. Partly as a result of this, Amrita Sher-Gil has at times been described as ‘the Indian Frida Kahlo’. As someone of Indian heritage, I wondered whether, instead, we could explore an alternative view: is not Frida Kahlo also ‘the Mexican Sher-Gil?’”

It is not the first time Balbir Singh has interwoven dance with the world of painting. His Painting the Indian Gods involved an artist painting live on stage alongside the dancers.

Balbir also wanted make the paintings an integral part of the performance. So he introduced the rather novel device of cubes, covered with fragments of both artists’ paintings and two of their famous self-portraits. As the performance unfolds, the performers re-arrange them like pieces of a jigsaw, to help tell the story and make connections between the two artists’ lives, one jigsaw piece at a time.

‘My hope is that the audience will leave inspired and want to find out more about both painters.’ – Balbir Singh