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Enchanted by the art of Mohiniyattom

V. Kaladharan

Eugenia Carrillo Rodriguez has made Mohiniyattom her medium of expression.

THEATRICS OF DANCE: Eugenia Carrillo Rodriguez

She comes from Cordoba, south of Spain. The city is known as the home of the Flamenco dance. However, Eugenia Carrillo Rodriguez is not a practitioner of Spain's distinguished dance tradition. Instead, she has devoted herself to Mohiniyattom. Eugenia, who has been learning Mohiniyattom at Kerala Kalamandalam for almost a year, recently had her arangettam at its Koothambalam.

She is perhaps the first dancer from Spain to undergo rigorous training in Mohiniyattom. At 20, she moved to Zaragoza city in the north of Spain to learn method acting at a distinguished school of theatre. For three years, Eugenia under went training in music, mime and dance and also mastering the meaning and concept of identification with the characters propounded by Stanislovsky.

After three years, she returned to Madrid to work in a drama school run by Angel Gutierrez, a disciple of Stanislovsky.

Search for a new style

"After a while I found the style less exciting. I wanted to move ahead of realistic theatre. Mine was an inner urge to explore the possibilities of body expressions." This led Eugenia to circus and acrobatics. It did not give her the aesthetic gratification she was longing for.

An opportunity to watch a Kathakali performance in Madrid enchanted her.

"It was a thrilling experience. The non-naturalistic expressions in Kathakali and the actor's deep involvement in characterisation was an unfamiliar treat. It appealed to me as a visual poetry," recalls Eugenia. Shortly afterwards, she came to Kerala and learnt Kathakali for nearly six months at Kalamandalam. But gradually she was drawn towards Mohiniyaattom.

Female art form

"It was for practical reasons that I chose Mohiniyaattam as my mode of artistic expression. Unlike Kathakali, it is more often a solo-recital that gives considerable independence to the dancer. Moreover I've been a great supporter of female art forms. This dance form offers me the liberty to express my feelings as a woman, as an artiste and as a human being."

Initially it was a challenge for Eugenia to internalise the dancing and acting process of Mohiniyattom. The undulating and circular movements of this dance form complemented by the sublimated expressions of sringara in slow and medium tempos are in sharp contrast to the western concept of speed and vigour.

"Mohiniyattom is relaxation. As an actress, I found its theme fascinating. I could get into the Nayika's emotional fabric of love, separation and reunion."

Eugenia is currently engaged in a project aimed at the visual interpretation in Mohiniyattom of Germa, a renowned play of Frederico Garcia Lorca. It is the tale of a childless woman. She is caught between an irresistible passion on the one side and social morality on the other.

The mental conflict of this woman, Eugenia is confident, will fit into the framework of Mohiniyattom.

The four characters in the play are Germa, her husband, passion represented by the shepherd, and wisdom voiced by the old lady. To a question whether a form of dance like Mohiniyattom can afford the psychosomatic density of Lorca's play, Eugenia replies. "Yes. I'm confident. It is not going to be the mixing up of a hitherto unfamiliar theme with the visual format of Mohiniyattom. The choreography would try to attempt to retain the essence of both and that would be a real challenge."

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