INTERVIEW Jayachandran Palazhy deconstructs his most recent contemporary performance piece and tells Harshini Vakkalanka why contemporary dance has the most honest expression

The central theme of AadhaaraChakra-A Dancelogue is life in the cities and the urban landscape, but when Jayachandran Palazhy, who conceived and directed the performance, was asked to create a piece about the Indian urban landscape, he took the idea one step ahead. “I didn’t want to make another piece about a particular city or a particular location. I wanted to go deeper into the phenomenon of urban life and what kind of layers and complexities it consists of. So I looked at the idea of an imagined urban landscape where multiple strands of people’s lives, their histories, their memories, their imaginations and aspirations come together,” explains the artistic director of the Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, which performed the piece.

The imagined urban landscape in his vision brings together India’s diversity in terms of religion, cultures, languages and its people amidst the rapidly-changing landscapes, livelihoods and chaos. This he wanted to study, through the idea of memories.

“I wanted to look at the memories that people carry across regional cultures, but through different layers. For instance, I look at monuments, which are testimony to time and carry so much history in their memories. I often wonder what kind of people lived here, what kind of events took place in these monuments.”

The narrative structure that then took shape was a combination of poetic imagination as well as the reality of history and memories. This structure was a blend of multimedia along with dance. Multimedia, in the form of lights, videos, soundscapes, and filmic images, brought life to the memories, and enabled them to be expressed in a non-linear fashion.

The dance itself is a product of extensive research, which is a reflection of authenticity and commitment — it brings meaning to the idea of contemporary dance, he adds. “In this production, dancers have been collaborators. They researched their characters, they improvised and underwent a lot of training in folk, classical forms. We have got elements of Devarattam, Kalaripayattu, Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, and yogic practises all woven in with a contemporary approach,” he explains.

“It’s not easy and it takes a long time to practice because we are deconstructing languages. If you take simply classical movements and put it there, it won’t necessarily work. You have to work with it and change it a little bit. Also, then one form does not become a threat to another.”

This is what makes the whole process interesting because then there is a field of vibrant expressions that can touch people with its sheer investment in terms of time, energy and intellectual input, he says. “That whole space then opens up and the younger generation also becomes interested in this adventurous way of finding out more. But it is also important that dancers then own the movement.”

Jayachandran feels that contemporary dance is easy to own because it works so closely with body movements. “The most immediate way we experience the universe is through our body. This is why contemporary dance is the most honest expression because body movement, as they say, cannot lie. Even if you are pretending, it shows.”

The honesty in contemporary dance also reflects in the fact that the framework of the dance is unique to each person. “Each one of us has unique experiences and when we create something, it stems from that unique expression. In contemporary dance, the language of the form is not given, the subject is not given, it’s all arrived at.”

It is the same with the audience too because the audience also experiences the dance based on their own experiences, habits, memory, training and relationships. So each time the dance is performed, the experiences of each member in the audience is different.