Chiaroscuro on stage

A group of young ladies in beautiful saris stand still in the middle of an immense junction. Suddenly, as the traffic lights go green, a stampede of motorbikes, rickshaws, trucks, buses and several cows hide them from view, and one fears the worst. But when the lights go red again, they are still there, those cascading saris unruffled.

Serenity amid cacophony in Bengaluru ­ that’s how Cocomobile, a fast-paced, quirky piece choreographed by Carlos Pons Guerra, a contemporary dance artist from Spain, for graduation performance of Attakkalari’s 10th batch of diploma in movement arts and mixed media course, begins.

“One, of course, had to think that TS Eliot’s Still Point of the Turning World had to be here in Bengaluru, a city of amazing contrasts, of clamorous traffic and meditative gardens, of flocks or herds of motorbikes against dogs peacefully napping on sidewalks, of ultra-speed WiFi and strikingly ornate sarees with patterns laced with the thread of centuries of tradition,” Pons Guerra says.

Attakkalari is a registered, public charitable trust formed by artists from different disciplines to help create contexts for contemporary movement arts. Jayachandran Palazhy, its founder and artistic director, has a unique definition of contemporary. “The creation a sensation that is the equivalent of a tangible reality; like how an abstract painting of a multitude of colours and with no overt images can still evoke the same response as that of a summer in the Nilgiris­it’s the same what is attempted to be achieved through Pons Guerra’s dance, to recreate his perception of an Indian city sight,” Palazhy says.


Stefano Fardelli’s work, Links, is also likewise inspired by his observation of electric cables cutting through the skyline of Indian townships, connecting the towers between them and also in some way the lives of people living there. The dance employs metaphorical and literal cords with different colours that cross the performance space to recreate the urban Indian atmosphere, giving the audience the sensation of being inside an abstract multidimensional sketch.

The ropes also serve as borders for the dancers to explore their physical movements, in constrained yet pliant spaces, connecting with each other in varied ways. The piece attempts to introspect on our perceptions of self, often demarcated by our nationalities and cultural upbringings which are seemingly separate and hence make us ignorant of the unseen links that bind us together.

Writing on the Water is choreographed by Attila Egerhazi, a ballet master and contemporary choreographer from Hungary, to the rhythm of rain. “It deliberates on the transience of life and movement. Similar to writing on water, the images and movements created by the dancers and shared with the audience will disappear as soon as they appear,” Egerhazi explains.

However, resonance, not transience, is the key to the substance of any art form, points out Palazhy. “A laudable art will resonate through the ages, like the works of Charlie Chaplin or Shakespeare. Pieces like Aahikhanta, an amalgamation of traditional kalarippayattu movement vocabulary with elements of contemporary improvisation inspired from global martial art forms like capoeira, taekwondo and kickboxing, and an invocatory item alaarippu and thillaana of bharatanatyam genre were also performed at the event because of its resonating quality,” Palazhy says.

The seamless blending of a martial art performance with kalarippayattu as backbone was an idea born from the brainstorming of kalarippayattu tutors Raam Kumar and Sreerag C. “Though it was presented as an improvised form of kalarippayattu, it was rather an artwork stitching together similar movement vocabulary from global martial art forms flavouring it with the essence of kalarippayattu as the thread connecting all. Even the costume and BGM was not suggestive of any particular art culture, but rather an all new structure built on the basic lexicon of martial arts in general, which resulted in an effortless merger of the international and the Indian on stage,“ Raam says.



(Article that appeared on Times of India, Kerala on August 27, 2016)


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