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Updated: June 9, 2010 18:31 IST

Transcending barriers

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Art to teach: Hemabharathy Palani - ‘I want to use dance as a platform’
Art to teach: Hemabharathy Palani - ‘I want to use dance as a platform’

Danseuse Hemabharathy Palani's contemporary dance piece, Uruvam, is about the osmosis of gender and sexuality

Gender is not black and white but shades of grey. Social stigma and bias pervades our society even as transgenders are fighting for their rights. Danseuse Hemabharathy Palani delves into this socially sensitive topic in her latest work called ‘Uruvam' (means form), a contemporary dance piece inspired by the mythological character of Ambe from the Mahabharatha. Prior to Uruvam, she conceptualized and created Chaaya (shadow), another performance based on a social theme.

While Uruvam is about osmosis of genders and sexuality, Chaaya is about emerging from the shadows of sexual abuse.

Hemabharathy is a senior repertory member of Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts. From the tender age of 12, she trained in Kuchupudi under renowned dancer Vyjayanthi Kashi.

Apart from Indian classical dance forms like Bharathanatyam and Kathak, she has also trained in Kalarippayattu, yoga, ballet and pilates. “Gestures are used extensively in classical dance. Being a trained classical dancer, it was not easy to express myself only through body movements without any gestures”, she says talking about the transformation from classical to contemporary dance.

In Uruvam, a creation that transcends time she has woven mythological stories, personal experiences and inputs from psychologists and experts.

This 22-minute solo dance work, choreographed and performed by Hemabharathy was a year-long project.

“I want to use dance as a platform to raise the voice of the transgender community. This is my contribution to society” she says.

Uruvam, developed and produced under the auspices of Robert Bosch Art Grant gave Hemabharathy the freedom to express herself.

The background scores are by Australian music composer Leah Barclay and the digital design and graphics are the work of Japanese media artist Matsuo Kunihiko. “I could devote all my time to my work as I did not have to worry about the money. Raising funds is a challenge,” she says.

As an upcoming artist on the Indian stage, Hemabharathy has many awards and accolades to her credit.

She was part of a team that performed at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan in front of the Heads of State of India, Brazil and South Africa. Hemabharathy has performed in Bonn, Frankfurt, Essen, Venice, Monaco, Munich, Dusseldorf, Bologna, Lublin, London, Yena, Amsterdam, Yokohama, Norway, Japan and China as part of the Attakkalari repertory.

She is part of the current multi-media dance production Chronotopia which toured Europe in March 2010. An enduring journey through pain and suffering, varied perspectives and unheard voices made it to Hemabharathy's storyboard.

She studied the subject with passion and collated her experiences into performances that carry a social message.

Uruvam premieres at Alliance Francaise de Bangaloreon June 12 . The show begins at 7.30 p.m. Entry is free.

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