Sampradaya Dance Creations, a Mississauga-based dance company, performed earlier this month at the opening ceremonies of the Museums of Mississauga’s Wrapped, Tied, and Tucked textile exhibition.

Held at the Bradley Museum and Benares House, the performance was in the classical style of Bharata Natyam, which appeared, to the unversed eye of this critic, to be an exceptional musical style of dance emphasizing strong poses and flowing motion.

The show was not especially polished. At some point or other, each dancer would waver in their pose or struggle to keep time. On the one hand, this seemed distracting and unprofessional. On the other, however, it seemed to fit the mood of the evening. The atmosphere both inside the galleries and outside on the lawn was casual, warm, and, to be frank, almost disconcertingly friendly.

The performers made a stage of the porch of the Benares House. This produced a very striking effect. The house, which is wooden, old, and exquisitely weathered, was adorned by three small women clad in brass, gold, and the brightest silks.

The exhibit itself, which can be seen both at the Benares House and the Bradley Museum, displays a small collection of traditional South Asian clothing. The name, Wrapped, Tied, and Tucked, is intended to emphasize the wrapping of these fabrics, which differs dramatically according to the region, and is as much a part of the artistry of the textiles as the embroidery. The pieces are largely borrowed from members of the Mississauga community, and each of these is accompanied by a story—most of them were wedding gowns.

There was one room that stood apart from all the others—it featured only a single dress, a lovely green fabric with sequined embroidery, and a small iPad screen playing a  looped video of an artist draping it over her daughter. An alternative presentation method might have been to project the short film over the entire wall, allowing it to dominate the visitors’ view.

For all its ups and downs, the Benares House is especially proud to host this exhibition, as it is a restoration of the home of an immigrant from the Indian city of Varanasi (formerly Benares), and has taken this occasion to remember its roots. Yet while the dance as performed by this local company and the silken bridal gowns and heirlooms of our Mississauga neighbours are a nod to this past, they are also reflective of the community at present. This is in essence the mission of the Museums of Mississauga.

Wrapped, Tied, and Tucked will run at the Bradley Museum and Benares Historic House until January 17.

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