‘While the aesthetics of queer diaspora reorient us away from the straight and narrow, they do not instead offer a recourse in the fictions of stable identity, narratives of linear progress, or the security of homecoming. Rather, they demand that we dwell, perhaps uncomfortably, in the space of disorientation that they open up.” Gopinath, Unruly Visions, 62
Since the age of five I have been trained in Bharata Natyam, a South Indian dance form, by Dr Chandrabhanu and Ambika Docherty at the Bharatalaya Dance Academy in Richmond, Melbourne. This rigorous training has been a consistent thread through out my life but hasn't yet folded into my art practice, until now...
For the past year I have been moving back to front. Literally. Taking the steps of Bharata Natyam and learning them in reverse, addressing questions of it's 'classical' history, contemporary dance and hybrid identities.
ALAKKALA explores the mechanism of audio-visual reversal and its application to my trained Bharata Natyam body, where I learnt the steps of Alarippu, a three-minute opening dance, in reverse with the aid of 2001 VHS of my Arangetram (a solo dance repertoire, similar to a graduation). This debut performance at Sangam Performing Arts Festival of South Asia and Diaspora sees a long awaited meeting between my video art practice and my dance body, with projection and live movement.
I have been fascinated by how bodies come to inhabit forms through observation, especially that of video technology, and in turn, how those postures and gestures shift silently beyond our skin. Reversing the steps of Alarippu has been a powerful tool in revealing the systems of encoding and decoding of years of training. Making this piece has also made visible the conventions, labour and command of Bharata Natyam which confront notions of purity, correctness and perfection.
It is with ALAKKALA, that I wish to offer a hauntingly different experience of Bharata Natyam by presenting a dark, dynamic visual dialogue between video footage of my 15 year old 'self' with my current live body through echo, repetition and reversal.
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2001 ARANGETRAM FOOTAGE:
Alexander Theatre, Monash University, Melbourne
Allaripu - Misra Chapu choreography: Adyar K. Lakshman
Stage Design: Geoffrey Goldie
Costume and Supervision: Ambika Docherty
Nattuvangam: Guru Dr. Chandrabhanu
Vocal: Sivaganga Sahathevan
Mrdangam: Balasri Rasiah
Violin: Murali Kumar
Flute: R Thiagrajan
Tanpura: Bharathi Susarla
ALAKKALA was commissioned for SANGAM PERFORMING ARTS FESTIVAL OF SOUTH ASIA AND DIASPORA. This was a double bill at Dancehouse, Melbourne. ALAKKALA was shown alongside Bharata Natyam dancer Masoom Parmar from Bangalore, performing AAJ KE NAAM.
Sangam is curated by Priya Srinivasan, Uthra Vijay and Hari Sivanesan and is supported by Creative Victoria in partnership with Multicultural Arts Victoria, Bunjil Place and Dancehouse.