Blend of cultures

Rehearsal session of ‘Mithuna’ Photo courtesy: Unni Narayanan and Joby  

It was in 1978 that French choreographer and performer Annette Leday came to India after she fell in love with Kathakali. She learnt Kathakali and later Bharatanatyam before exploring the possibilities of bringing Indian and French performers together on the same stage. Under the initiative of her company, Annette Leday/Keli, she choreographed productions such as ‘King Lear’, ‘La Sensitive’, ‘Trans Malabar’, ‘Cinderella Otherwise’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘Stuff of Dreams’ and ‘’.

Annette came up with ‘Mithuna’, another Indo-French production last year. As the team is getting ready to stage the work in the city this Sunday, she talks in an email interview about conceptualising ‘Mithuna’ and the creative process involved.

Annette says that ‘Mithuna’ marks another step in her long artistic journey. “It is a work of maturity for me as well as for the dancers. A work that could not have been possible without the long association we have had over many years.”

It is all about a companionship between Indian professional Kathakali dancers she spotted with French contemporary dancers and herself. Hence the title, which means ‘forming a pair’. At the same time the production is something beyond mere hybridisation or fusion.

Rehearsal session of ‘Mithuna’ Photo courtesy: Unnikrishan and Joby

Rehearsal session of ‘Mithuna’ Photo courtesy: Unnikrishan and Joby  

It was after a long gap that the company started working on ‘Mithuna’ as the performers were scattered for a while after its last production. “Two years ago we felt it was time to get to work on a new venture as we still had things to explore and express together. The team took stock of what we had achieved through many years of collaboration. And we felt that the strongest challenges in our work had always been the notions of encounter and dialogue,” she adds.

Annette says that the key elements of ‘Mithuna’ depend on presence, dance and movements. “Even as the main focus is on duos, it also gives space for silence, for looking at each other and for the talent of the performers. The work also deals with gender issues and brings the dancers to explore different types of energy,” she explains.

Rehearsal session of ‘Mithuna’ Photo courtesy: Unni Narayanan and Joby

Rehearsal session of ‘Mithuna’ Photo courtesy: Unni Narayanan and Joby  

It is devoid of a narrative and therefore viewers can project their story. “The structure of the choreography depends on a poetic evocation of the complex forces at work between human beings in our world today.”

The team is overwhelmed by the response it has got so far in New Delhi and Paris. “I know it had something special because it does not use any artifice and goes straight into the essence of things and beings. But I was surprised by the level of appreciation we got,” she gushes.

She also can’t thank enough the dancers in ‘Mithuna’ - French artiste Hélène Courvoisier, trained in ballet and contemporary dance and Kathakali artistes Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan and Sadanam Manikandan. “The Kathakali dancers were engaged in my creative work parallel to their careers as Kathakali artists right from my first Kathakali (‘King Lear’), in 1989,” she adds.

Annette Leday

Annette Leday  

There will be a gap before her company starts the next project. Meanwhile they will stage ‘Mithuna’ in Paris in March/April 2017.

Watch ‘Mithuna’ at Co-Bank Towers on October 2, 6 p.m.

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 9:26:24 PM |

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