Dance

Beyond the Kinetics

KOCHI, KERALA, 10/01/2017: Choreographer Saju Hari and Sreejit P during an interview with The Hindu Metro Plus in Kochi. Photo: H. Vibhu   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

Saju Hari and Sreejith P. first met at a Attakalari workshop in Bangalore way back in 1998. Both of them had not danced before, did not really listen to the chime within. By the end of the workshop they became good friends and branched off into different paths. They pursued dance as a career, Saju making a name as dancer-choreographer with some internationally renowned dance companies, while Sreejith moved to films, going on to win the Kerala State award for best choreographer.

Though they were always in touch Saju and Sreejith never collaborated on a project. Every time they met, every time they came on Skype, their talk was about dance. Recently they formed Disha, a centre for movement arts and from January 17-27 Disha will be organising an international contemporary dance workshop at Poothotta.

‘Follow the grain in your own wood’ - that’s what the story of these two dancers is all about. Saju, inspired by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chang and martial arts movies, started off imitating theses movements. Dance was never there. For Sreejith music and dance was always part of his life. His grandfather was a popular nagaswaran artiste, his mother and aunts did their Ganabushanam from RLV College of Music and Fine Arts, Tripunithura. Sreejith began playing the tabla and was soon adept in handling various percussion instruments.

Sreejith, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram, was drawn into dance by his friends. “A couple of my friends, all professional dancers, were on their way to Bangalore for the Attakalari choreography laboratory audition. They virtually dragged me along. I went for the audition and was lucky to be selected. That’s when I met Sreejith. That lab changed me and my life forever. I stayed back there for five years,” says Saju.

However, the turning point in Saju’s career was a workshop he attended during his time in Bangalore. “It was a Jaan Freeman workshop, which must have been sometime in 2001. This great New York-based dancer-choreographer-teacher asked me to do a solo. This meant I had to think of a concept, choreograph and present it. It was the first time I was doing something like this. The show went off well, I got good reviews and some people even came to meet me. Freeman put me on track, gave me that confidence,” says Saju.

Sreejith was 14 and in school when for the first time has saw break dance. And he fell for it. “For one of the summer vacations I was at one of my relatives’ house at Thoppumpady. That’s when I saw this dance performance. I taught myself to dance like this, rehearsing movements before the mirror. I then found two boys with curly hair to perform my choreographed piece inspired by the break dance I saw. I found the right music and presented my first choreographed dance on stage,” remembers Sreejith.

Soon, Sreejith formed a dance group, Dazzlers, with his friends and took on the mantle of choreographer. “The group won dance competitions; I began to enjoy the role of teacher-performer and decided that this was to be my career. I studied for a while at Kalabhavan, where I also taught for some time. Then this contemporary dance choreographic lab at Attakkalari happened, which put me on the contemporary dance track.”

Saju danced with Jayachandran Palazhi’s London-based Imlata Dance Company in two productions, City Maps and Trans Avatar before joining Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company. He was also part of other companies like Bedlam Dance Company, Akram Khan Company, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, Sasha Waltz & Guests touring the world with them, dancing at some prestigious venues.

“The existences are so different; performances, projections and presentations are different. Shobana Jeyasingh deconstructed Bharatanatyam, brought kinetics and physical contours of Kalaripayattu and Indian body movements to the British cultural mainstream, while Akram Khan’s repertoire ranges from classical to modern solos, contemporary productions. All of them have been constantly developing new idioms, creating fascinating dances. For me these were Billy Elliot moments, where I migrate from the worlds known to me to the extraordinary. I have felt the change in my whole body, a fire. And when I dance with them I disappear, flying like a bird,” says Saju.

Saju’s own choreography has included works commissioned by Royal Opera House Covent Garden’s Summer Collection. They include a solo, Itself…, a duet Opaque Image, a quintet Re:URGENT, and a trio Outside In. He has danced with Malaysian dancer Mavin Khoo in Escapade, in Gustav Holst’s opera Savitri and in William Tuckett’s The Thief of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Sreejith built a successful career in film choreography, also directing a number of short films and commercials. “I have been selective about accepting films. I need to be comfortable with the people I work with. It’s a question of trust. Since my début film Cinema Company (2012) I must have worked in around 15 films. Some of them, like Amen are close to my heart. For Amen I was with the team for nearly 60 days. This showed in the Vattoli song,” feels Sreejith, who won the State award for Jo and the Boy (2015) and has enhanced numerous stage and television shows.

Saju and Sreejith have great dreams for contemporary dance in Kerala. The international workshop festival they are now preparing to organise is the first step in this direction. “It is an attempt to create a space for dance to take root in a State where we have a wealth of knowledge, history and diverse performance arts,” says Sreejith.

Saju lists out the other plans they have for Disha. “We want to organise a regular contemporary dance festival in Kochi, organise workshops, create a dance studio. We want to create a core group of dancers and help them find opportunities in India and abroad. And we have so many other ideas like providing residencies for dancers, which we will try and introduce one by one.”


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 5:57:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/Beyond-the-Kinetics/article17028477.ece1

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