An intriguing venue. A myriad-coloured landscape. A lively soundtrack. Jayachandran Palazhy, artistic director of Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts, on AdhaaraChakra, a multi-disciplinary production that will be staged as part of The Park’s New Festival
AdhaaraChakra, the new production by Bangalore-based Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts, is part of The Park’s New Festival , to be staged at an intriguing venue — a warehouse in Thoraipakkam. This fragmented “dancelogue” flashes through spaces as distant as Old Delhi and a south Indian village — in alleys, monuments, tombs, temples, all vivified by a myriad-coloured lightscape and projected images, and a lively soundtrack of street vendors, cricket commentary, bells and rituals. This new work promises to be a perfect example of Attakalari’s inter-disciplinary, multimedia productions in hybrid forms — blending film, plastic arts, digital arts, sound/lighting design with innovative physical movement.
The centre’s reliance on “traditional physical wisdom, innovation and technology” has directed its search for a vocabulary and stylistics of contemporary Indian dance. Founder/artistic director Jayachandran Palazhy has drawn from wide-ranging experiences to spearhead the institute’s growth.
A Physics graduate trained in kalaripayattu, Palazhy studied Bharatanatyam with Kalamandalam Kshemavati, Thrissur, and the Bharatakalanjali school of the Dhananjayans, Chennai. He learnt Kathakali from gurus A. Janardhanan and Balagopalan of Kalakshetra. In Chennai he also worked with Chandralekha and Koothu-p-pattarai theatre group. He was part of Na Muthuswami’s play Wall Posters, directed by K.S. Rajendran of the National School of Drama.
The London Contemporary Dance School came next. Palazhy also studied classical ballet, tai chi, capoeira and African dance in London, before establishing the Imlata Dance Company supported by U.K.’s Arts Council. Winning Barclay’s New Stage Award for innovative work, he also represented the U.K. as an emerging choreographer.
Palazhy smiles as he explains his fascination for contemporary genres. “The classical is perfected over centuries, anchors civilisation and society. You know the landscape where it came from. I am riveted by its language and syntax, but I find the content disturbing. I don’t identify with Krishna stealing butter. I have no access to the landscape, myths and motifs of a village in the past. I want an honest, authentic language to say who am I, what I want — here and now. I don’t dismiss the strength and beauty of history and tradition, but I don’t want to be limited by them. I want to go beyond.”
Referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s image of a house with open windows where winds of every culture may blow in and out freely, Palazhy talks about the myriad mental journeys we make in the modern age. He himself was inspired by Kurosawa and Kieslowsky, Godard and Tarkovsky, as they explored new territories of language and implication.
A grant from the Ratan Tata Trust (2001) enabled Palazhy to establish a space for taking such ideas forward. Painstaking research furthered the attempt to formulate a contemporary pedagogical practice where the teacher would function as a facilitator of the student’s growth, not remain the sole and single source of information. “We developed our own syllabus by deconstructing classical, folk and martial arts in practice. Kalari is a vital source here, as it conceptualises a neurocentric style of movement, using — not fighting — gravity,” he says.
Palazhy is excited about the post-diploma course, soon to be launched by Attakalari, to develop four skills — physical movement, performance, choreography and teaching. The trainee can opt to specialise in one area. The course will also help him to understand methods of collaboration with Indian or international artistes. The faculty will have Indian instructors, as also 12 choreographers from Australia, light designers from Switzerland, digital artistes from Germany and Japan. Lesson planning, pedagogical practice and educational psychology will be part of the course.
Talking about his choreographic impulse Palazhy says, “After the Gulf War and the financial meltdown I felt a change in the human psyche across the world, and a sense of loss. But cultural memory cannot be erased. Silappadikaram and Katha prasangam remain a part of me. I invoked the interior landscapes of tinai in technology-based “Chronotopia”, where digital projections shift with dance movements and postures, in the interactive scenography.” Sensorial narrative “Mei Dhwani” deploys oil lamp and metal pots, to suggest archetypal fire-water metaphors, invoking male and female energies. Soundscape by Israeli composers Patrick Sebag and Yohan Agam, and lighting by Thomas Dotzler, lyricise motifs adapted from Bharatanatyam and Kalaripayattu. Such productions, often with international collaborators, have been acclaimed abroad.
But how easy is it to stage such hi-tech creations in the inadequately equipped theatres of India? Palazhy replies somewhat ruefully, “A problem. I keep hoping that with increasing demands surely things will improve? We try to create awareness through lighting workshops. We also rig up lights for others. I think Attakalari has become a pivotal centre in south Asia for providing infrastructure and training possibilities, for young artistes to pursue their dreams. We want to open windows.”
AdhaaraChakra (August 29, 8 p.m.) is presented with the support of the Goethe Institut.