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Passionate about dance

Liza George
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spotlight Jayachandran Palazhy's ‘Sanchari' has a riveting visual language. The dancer-cum-choreographer traces his journey in dance. Liza George

T he stage darkens and soon dancers fill the stage. Although their fluid movements seem abstract, when observed closely, one can see a thin story line emerge from their ballet. Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts' ‘Sanchari' provided the audience in Thiruvananthapuram with a scintillating evening of dance recently.

A contemporary dance troupe led by renowned dancer-cum-choreographer Jayachandran Palazhy, ‘Sanchari' provided the audience a glimpse of some of Attakkalari's repertoire.

The night's performance began with an excerpt from their recent production – ‘Chronotopia.' Inspired by ‘Silappadhikaram' a Tamil epic, ‘Chronotopia' connects the epic with globalism and consumerism in today's fast changing world.

Says Jayachandran: “The war in the Middle East is what triggered this seed of thought of creating a parallel between ‘Silappadhikaram' and the world we live in today. I was also influenced by the way in which neighbourhoods are being wiped out in the name of progress. I wanted to capture that sense of loss, be it of memories, places and even the ability to imagine.”

The following piece, ‘Swa Atman' was conceptualised by Denny Paul, a disciple of Attakalari. A search for self was depicted in this piece while ‘Reflections' merged “the earthiness and precision of Indian physical traditions and the freedom of contemporary dance.”

‘Transavatar' was hypnotic. A multi-media performance of contemporary dance and martial arts, the piece has integrated sound and technology. It took the audience on a journey into multiple identities and reminded one of the late Michael Jackson's ‘Black or White' video wherein different faces merge as one. Jayachandran made a brief but memorable appearance in this piece.

The performance ended with ‘Cinemascope,' a celebration of dance, which had cinematic body language and brisk movements choreographed to perfection. “It is sort of an ode to Bollywood,” says Jayachandran, who adds that dance although his first love, was not always so.

Sportsperson turned dancer

“It was sports. I was into cricket, badminton … In fact I represented my school at various sports meets. But I rarely play them now. I was interested in dance, but at that time dance was mostly for girls,” he says.

Dance happened when he was studying physics at Kerala Varma College, Trichur. “That was when I got the opportunity to learn Bharatanatyam under Kalamandalam Kshemavati. I was staying in the hostel then. As I was scared of being the laughing stock of the college I used to practice behind closed doors. My close friends were supportive though of my love for dance.”

And so, his passion for dance led him to Chennai where he went in search of a teacher. “I met several teachers but none of them appealed to me until I met V.P. Dhananjayan. He was an epitome of a male dancer. I also joined Kalakshetra.”

A performance by Merce Cunningham, a United States avant-garde dance choreographer, is what he says, changed his perception of dance. “I could not make head or tail of it as it was abstract. I asked a couple of my Western students at the Dhananjayans what the dance was all about and they didn't have a clue either. It fascinated me and led me to the late danseuse Chandralekha.”

And soon, his desire to learn more about this new dance expression took him to London Contemporary Dance School. “I was at a stage where I started wondering whether narrating the tale of how Krishna stole butter from the pot was what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” says Jayachandran.

He adds: “At London Contemporary Dance School, while learning dance forms from more or less across the globe, I realised that at its root level, all dance forms are the same and decided to take the best from each dance form, fuse them all together and create a new form in dance. And that's how Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts came about.”

The dance company has performed various dance pieces that adopt a non-linear way of narration. “We are trying to develop a language that can be understood visually.”

Attakkalari also trains those interested in dance with a one year course.

So, what does the dancer-cum-choreographer plan next?

“We are working on ‘Ayodhanam,' which will be a part of Attakkalari Bangalore Biennial (International festival of dance and digital arts) and there is a tour of Europe lined up in 2011.”


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