International Contemporary dance festival – attakkalari, happened in Bangalore for last 10 days, spread over at different venues. I happened to watch 2 of them, a briefing of the same follows.
Cosmic dance of Shiva
The first one was “Cosmic dance of Shiva”. Shiva, as is known to all, is a king of dances – Nataraja. And his “tandava nrutya” – rudra tandava to be specific- is as full of aggressiveness and passion as it could get. As wikipedia says,

The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principal manifestations of eternal energy:
‘Shrishti’ – creation, evolution
‘Sthiti’ – preservation, support
‘Samhara’ – destruction, evolution
‘Tirobhava’ – illusion
‘Anugraha’ – release, emancipation, grace
Thus Tandava symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death.

I have always enjoyed the (almost same) music and the dance in mythological scenes in movies or in tv. It is usually when Shiva gets angry, he breaks into a dance!

So, I was expecting to watch something on similar lines. But what I watched has stunned me. The performance, by “Samudra” , was visually beautiful and colorful due to the costumes and lighting. But the dance and music ( music was very varied) itself were even better. The rthythmic movements mostly showcasing different yogic postures (and probably different forms of dances ) were a visual treat. I did try to notice the happy and anger facial expressions but I could not relate the dance to any “sequence/event/meaning” – it was supposed to have a meaning which I came to know during post-show discussion.
However the show has motivated me to try Yoga, sometime.

Extended teenage Era
This was a performance by Samir Akika, is about study of young artists that learn well but without a job – as per the description.

This was at Chowdiah memorial hall, where I wanted to attend a performance since – the time I went too early for a Evam show of FPS (which I could never watch it, alas) and returned. Its architecture and the environment itself is so arty that I feel good being there.

The show started with a lady instructing the audience about the “don’ts” in an ironical way and was funny. More impressing was her voice and speaking which was so musical and warm that I feel should be used for some philosophical discourse.

Once the performance started by one of the artists, other artists got busy with their work – tearing pages, using cardboard to build boxes or hang postures. The whole stage was their workplace and this went on for the entire show. This initially created a distraction or restless and informal happening on the stage, it slowly became a part of the performance and culminated in a wonderfully surprising way (see below).

The characters were an ensemble of different nationality or cutlure, but supposedly of same age except a small kid – who was thoroughly cute and unbelievable at times. I not only doubted if such small kid could do anything on being told, but to imagine him to rehearse or to do anything on time was beyond my imagination. Probably the impromptu environment could have helped, where he could do anything and still it looks like a part of the performance, but not to take away any credit from him – he did dance quite spectacularly for his age and shouted beats perfectly.

Rest of the characters, each an expert in dance – I am not sure if I could call it dance at all , because it included many things – at one point I wondered if they were straight out of a circus company for they performed gymnastics. Other times too, it was an intense – and sometimes shocking – body movements and jumping around, but there were well choreographed chorus dancing too. Even in the most unconventional movements, what were clearly visible were energy and the beautiful synchronization – a cursor to the amount of extra-ordinary effort that must have gone into the practice – they later said they stayed as a family for 2 months – yet 2 months is not much for the kind of show they put.

I enjoyed the dance and the music, though I didn’t relate it to the narrative or the main plot .. I could realize it was either an angst put out in dance or a celebration. The plot in general moved with childhood memories – the association with pets, the growing up – a superb recital of A for __ to Z for __ with totally unconventional words – probably poking fun at the conventional A for Apple stuff, was funny. The “follow rules” for a slightly grown up kid where parents start suggesting the right ways to sit, stand, walk, even about cleanliness – was humourosly-symbolically represented by a person who learns to sit and eat. Identity crisis was presented as a game (like 20questions). There was a slight touch upon –fear and love – two prominent emotions that suddenly get highlighted(uh,blame on hormones) in pre-teen or teenage. A monologue that followed, which tried to exemplify the beauty of solitude – am sure was a subtle satire on love failure , will be very disappointed if I am wrong. Except that I liked that I got to hear to my favorite concepts – time is important, lost time is gone forever, time is the most precious gift one can give other.

The entire duration was frequently punctuated by a dance or a monologue (a breakfast monologue – totally unrelated or disconnected, as per me, was humorous because of his presentation and delivery. I didn’t get the jokes – it was related to breakfast of Germany,probably boring and monotonic – but yet I could laugh and enjoy.) and while all this, other cast members were busy constructing some random objects – or so they seemed. At the culmination of the show the entire stage was full with those constructed objects – and looked quite chaotically beautiful –formed a part of chain-reaction setup (I found a name to this kind of setup –Rube Goldberg machine ) over the entire stage with all carefully planted objects – that it finally made sense. And that chain-reaction was brilliant too.

With all the plus, a minor grouse – at many times, so many things were happening in parallel on stage that I found it hard to switch eyes from one to anohter and had confusion where to look or what to concentrate on. Also, if only I could relate more to the dance , monologues.

In total, a performance, contemporary and unconventional, which was so full of energy and vibrant, which must be a result of tremendous effort and rehearsal – so much so that, it looked casual and informal – at a level it probably was informal and impromptu, brilliant dances/body movements to good range of music – such magnificant canvas and such art – the package created fans and deserved the repeated standing ovation it got from the audience.

Ps: If my writing is unstructured, grammatically incorrect, sentence formation confusing – good, I am currently influenced by the unconventional show and am on my way to do unconventional, chaotic perhaps, writing. To hell with editing and correction and all – I want to write free flow; but, to the extent that interested/curious reader must/will get the point.
This is a famous video that shows Rube Goldberg Machine ..

4 thoughts on “Attakkalari Dance Festival

  1. The festival was quite eye opening, I agree. I saw some interesting performances at Ranga Shankara – and was permitted to shoot photographs during an extremely unusual and collaborative work called THREE, in which Tom Alter, the actor, performed monologues and was followed by Pascal Sieger on the saxophone and finally Suresh Kaliyath danced in the Ottan Thullal style. It was quite amazing. Here is a link to the photos –

    I also watched some of the rehearsals at Attakkalari and took pictures there.

    All in all I think it was a very succesful festival.