A new medium for narration

POIGNANT PORTRAYAL: Dancer Preethi Athreya’s ‘Conditions of Carriage’ uses body as a communicative tool. Photo: R. Ashok

POIGNANT PORTRAYAL: Dancer Preethi Athreya’s ‘Conditions of Carriage’ uses body as a communicative tool. Photo: R. Ashok  

Preethi Athreya’s ‘Conditions of Carriage’ explores body as a functional being and explains how to strike a harmony between private and public space

The performance space is a square pit created with wooden planks on all sides and in that space a group of people walk, run and jump, as the cavity of the pit resonates with the impact of bodies hurtling in and springing out. That is ‘Conditions of Carriage’, a performance conceptualised by dancer and choreographer Preethi Athreya and her team.

“The main idea is that the condition by which you carry yourself and the people around you keep changing in life. The performance is all about how we negotiate the space between us and how we negotiate our own body to strike a harmony,” says Preethi Athreya.

Supported by the Indian Foundation for the Arts under its Arts Practice programme and organised in collaboration with Arul Anandar College and Manalmagudi Theatre Land, the performance brought to light how the vertical axis dissolves and bodies give in to the pull of the earth.

Dancer Preethi Athreya. Photo: R. Ashok

Dancer Preethi Athreya. Photo: R. Ashok  


Basically a classical dancer, Preethi Athreya explores body as narrative medium and explains what prompts her to venture into this project. “The origin of the project goes back to my obsession with the functional body in contrast to the performative body. As a Bharathanatyam dancer once during a performance I noticed audience frequently get distracted by the movement of the backstage crew of the next programme. It was a revelation of sorts for me. I wondered how normal body movement could attract the attention of the audience when a highly stylised art form like Bharathanatyam was in progress. From then on I tried to evolve a performance using functional body as a communicative tool,” she says.

Jumping reveals mechanics of the body as there is no decorative element in it as in any dance form. In ‘Conditions of Carriage’, called a jumping project, performers stand side-by-side, pushing away from the ground and reaching for a space and time that is suspended. As actions both jumping and running have a telling effect on the energy of the environment. The performers try to explore the space between them. In the course of action they also spill out of the pit but slide back in and gradually fall into the rhythm. Connected to each other by time, they run in spirals, becoming orbits of themselves and each other. Every time they come closer, audience expect a collision but the performers time their movements to perfection to avoid the clash. Energy accelerates and individualities surface as the performers move around within the confines of the pit. Moving, dodging, standing, breathing, counting, they are drawn together once again, in a collective spiral.

“Bodies are at once powerful and vulnerable as they navigate their exhaustion. The idea of borders and limitations are displaced at once. We worked out of SPACES art foundation, Chennai, where the idea of space as a changing entity became a preoccupation for me,” she says.

The performance was like an abstract painting packed with layers of meaning with different levels of understanding. At one level it talked about personal space and public space and at another level it showed how technological advancement in communication had actually widened the gap between two individuals as people have become more concerned about personal space and failed to take note of public space, where living in community loses its relevance.

The use of colours, especially the costumes, reflects the sentiment of the play. “We have used only primary colours, for instance the red colour symbolises aggressiveness while the blue has a calming effect,” she says.

There are no lengthy dialogues as most of them were mono syllabic. Music score is by Paul Jacob, who has created a sound scape with his electronic and percussion instruments.

Apart from Preethi Athreya, Devika S, Dipna Daryanani, Maithily Bhupatkar, Nidhi Misra, Prabu Mani, Pravin Kannanur, Sekher Narayanan, Sruti Sriram and Vasanth Selvam were the other performers. They are drawn from different disciplines. The group comprises actors, dancers, a parkour expert and fitness enthusiasts. The performance creates a cathartic effect on the audience. Preethi Athreya also hopes that people will reflect on what connection the abstract performance has to their lives.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 9:06:25 AM |

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