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Mesmerised by rhythm

Jayachandran Palazhy, who was in the city recently, speaks about his desire to create a language of contemporary dance


JAYACHANDRAN PALAZHY. The name may not seem very familiar. Need a clue? He is a performer. Music, theatre... ? Actually, dance - Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kalarippayattu and Brazilian Capoeira. Talk to the unassuming artiste and tenacious is perhaps the word that you would choose to describe him, for the sheer doggedness with which Jayachandran pursues his calling. He was in the city recently to recruit dancers for his Bangalore-based Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts (ACMA).

Was dance his first love? "No, it was sports. Badminton and athletics. I was always fascinated by dance though," says the Kerala-born dancer.

You learn that he excelled as a high school athlete before discovering his passion for dance and pirouetting on dance floors across the world.

Jayachandran had always thought that he might develop a fondness for dance.

So, when he got a chance to learn dance under Kalamandalam Kshemavati, he was thrilled. A graduate in Physics, Jayachandran left for Chennai and continued his tutelage in Bharatanatyam and Kathakali at Kalakshetra and extended his repertoire under the veteran Dhananjayans.

Passionate about dance

Spurred by a desire to provide the audience with something different from the predictable offering, Jayachandran began to work on projects in collaboration with various artistes. His works led him to associate with Koothupattrai, the Chennai-based theatre group, and later, noted danseuse Chandralekha. He spent his time learning and teaching the nuances of classical dance.

Exploring the realms of dance

Little did Jayachandran realise that a chance watching of a performance by the United States (U.S.) avant-garde dancer-choreographer, Merce Cunningham, would hook him to a "different rhythm" for life.

"The dance intrigued me and held me spellbound. I asked some of my European students what it was all about," recalls Jayachandran. "They told me it was modern dance and I wanted to step beyond the traditional parameters of Indian classical dance, explore the realms of contemporary dance and rediscover myself through dance."

As the images of Cunningham's "abstract performance" flitted through Jayachandran's mind, he knew that this was what he wanted to do. At that point though, Jayachandran's ambition was to join an ace contemporary dance school in the country and there was none. It was a time, says the artiste, when there was a dearth of platforms for modern dance in India and most dance institutes relied on State subsidies and funds to pull themselves through. Armed with a scholarship to his school of choice, Jayachandran packed his bags for the United Kingdom (U.K.) to study at the London Contemporary Dance School. What followed was a few years of learning the dances of countries such as Jamaica, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea.


He was lucky, says Jayachandran, to have been able to work with some of the best choreographers in the world such as Peter Brooks. London is a great place to hone one's creative skills, says Jayachandran. "In India, we have a narrow vision about what education entails and often, fail to allow ourselves to develop as an individual in the fullest sense. Educationists do not feel the need to inculcate an artistic bent of mind in children." In the West, at no point of time does art play second fiddle to the other subjects of study. "Moreover, they have enough resources to tap and nourish young talent; we don't," Jayachandran laments.

His years in London resulted in the broadening of his mental and creative landscapes. "It was more about getting to know the structure of the mind, physicality and my being, and an understanding of how all these elements resonate in different ways in specific contexts," says Jayachandran.

Art should always have room for innovation and each artiste must have a deeper understanding of the dance forms that the artiste pursues, feels Jayachandran.

Mission

His mission is now is to create a language of contemporary dance and, most importantly, evolve a vocabulary of his own. It was this desire that prompted him to set up ACMA in 1992 in Aluva, Kerala, before shifting to Bangalore in 2001.

ACMA believes that art should be a process to understand heritage, says Jayachandran, its artistic director. ACMA has many activities and its repertoire comprises contemporary works in collaboration with Indian and foreign artistes.

"We evolve new ways of communication through a particular artistic medium," he says. Experts from various fields such as lighting, set designing, electro-acoustic music work together without limiting themselves to one traditional facet. "In India, it is a bit difficult to transgress traditional boundaries pertaining to art. It is much more easier to do experimental works in art in the West as the audience is more receptive to innovation."

Dance is visual poetry

Dance, says Jayachandran, is visual poetry and a composite art form.

"We, at ACMA, are trying to develop a language that can be understood visually," explains the dancer. Each work of art has to speak for itself, in a sensorial manner than a literal narrative. ACMA's works are mainly a reconstitution of the sensory experience in the medium of art and not as an empirical entity, he stresses. "You need to have an idea and decide on how you want to convey it through dance. Dance thus becomes a coming together of meaningful elements," says Jayachandran who feels that trans-disciplinary works are the best way to evolve a distinctive repertoire of contemporary dance. He is currently busy jet-setting between the London-based Imlata Dance Company and Attakkalari at Bangalore.

SMITHA SADANANDAN

Photo: S. Mahinsha

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