French contemporary dancer Brahim Bouchelaghem takes it easy on stage, and does a lot more than dance
The J.S.S. Auditorium is dark as we enter and the music reverberates in our hearts. It's the rehearsal of Brahim Bouchelaghem and his French team is making the last minute check on light and sound.
As the countdown for the rehearsal begins, Brahim takes position centre stage. Music begins. Dim lights come on and there is a heavy Arabic influence in the music. The beats are infectious and you too want to tap your feet, but there is a touch of sadness in the music. Instead of taking off and dancing to the rhythm, Brahim takes his time.
He continues to sit still for a few more seconds and lets you soak in the ambience of his performance space – there are two wrought iron chairs, a tiny table, a hat and a coat stand and a background screen that shows a film of two pairs of hands gambling.
That's the best part of contemporary dance, the choreographer gives you ample time to comprehend the scene and his dance piece includes a lot of stillness in the music and dance, which in itself become a piece of art work, when accompanied with brilliant lighting.
Brahim's solo piece is titled “Zahrbat” which means “He who cannot stand still”. Choreographed by Brahim himself, it is dedicated to his late father, who was an Algerian. Brahim's movements are brisk, more leaning towards break dance and ontemporary in his style. The dance, though devoid completely of any “abhinaya” as in Indian dance, depicts the emotions, perfectly through music, his body stance, or speed of his movements.
Brahim is very agile and uses the props to do various hand and head stand. The highlight of the show was a two-minute head spin in various speeds by Brahim which makes you hold your breath!
The dance is a take on gambling. The hero tries hard to get away and yet is drawn towards it. Brahim even takes out giant play cards and goes on to build a card game.
It's not a complete dance performance — he contemplates, arrange his cards and even becomes a viewer watching the film with the audience. Anything can be a piece of art – even simple daily life movements, sans all the glitter and the style.
The 45-minute piece ends with a graveyard scene, set in Algeria and ends with Brahim standing still watching the graves on the screen. “I was casual at moments because it was a rehearsal,” starts Brahim, who is here as part of the Dance Dialogue, an Indo-French festival of contemporary dance, presented by Alliance Francaise and Institut Francais.
“It's a sad piece,” he adds, “because my father was obsessed with gambling. In fact, he was so obsessed that he spent most of his nights gambling and it was sad for me to watch him being affected like this. I was a child and could do nothing much to help him. So when I choreographed this piece, I was reminded of his life and his tragic end. It comforts me that my father is with his clan and safe.”