The Dance Seen

Another smash hit from Live Art Dance’s Artistic Director Randy Glynn; Attakkalari Dance Company was programmed to start off the Season and danced for a sold out house on Friday night.

Intrigued by traditional forms of dance fused with contemporary styles, I find the genre allows for busting open dialogue. In the same vein, the traditional form is often so technically ingrained in the company’s vocabulary that the effortlessness in performance creates a visceral experience.

Bhinna Vinyasa choreographed by Jayachandran Palazhy in collaboration with the company was weaved with traditional dance forms, dialogue with spiritual philosophies including atman (the individual soul) and paramatman (universal meta soul). While these ponderings are right up my philosophical alley, I wasn’t sold on the thematic approach which felt too broad and, simultaneously disunited.

Fortunately there was a talk before the show that introduced those who attended, to the traditional forms of dance which Palazhy bases his movement principles on: Kalarippayattu (a form of martial art), Yoga body principles (mainly Prana energy philosophy) and Bharatanatyam (classical Indian dance). This intro warmed us up to what we should expect and gave us a platform for understanding his passion for energy principles of the body. The presentation highlight was Palazhy’s explanation that dance was not “a representation of something” but that it “happens in the moment”. Truly striking a nerve with my dance-nerd brain was his proclamation that dance is the body living up to the performer’s imagination. This truly sent shivers down my spine and I quickly found my seat in the James Dunn Theatre with anticipation.

The 7 dancers in Bhinna Vinyasa certainly took the stage with strength and a calm gentile. With boxes as their main set design, they moved from one crisp scene to another throughout. The digital design by Luca Brinchi and Music/Sound composition by Martin Lutz brought together a production leading us through a journey of the human spirit in flux. From the outset a downpour of symbols onto the dancers peering from behind their boxes had all of us gasping for air from the intense beauty of it all. The careful attention to choreographing the space completely and seamless transitions suited the daring and wildly inventive movement.

As the dancers launched into a series of Classical Indian dance complete with technically perfect hand and eye gestures my heart melted. Shifts in migration, urbanization and “complex contemporary experiences” could be felt through the weaving of movement vocabulary as the dancers navigated through the various forms made available through the choreography. Weighted collapses into the floor coupled with repetitive yogic based movement flowed into powerful duets and synchronized group classical performance. The piece felt like a Journey through, back and concurrently, forward in time. Moments of tenderness peeked out from the powerful statements the performers made. Palazhy’s knack for reading his audience is well tuned with moments of release translating as a spiritual “letting go” almost as if to say “Let fate take the reins”.

The movement patterns were eternally complex and I yearned for some simplicity in the mix. And then the dancers put their feet up on their boxes and treated us to a little delightful foot anthropomorphism.

Attakkalari Dance Theatre’s presentation delighted my longing for unique and meaningful dance performance. It really touched on the human condition in a contemporary context with a deeply physical practice. As they continue their North American tour I hope new audiences are able to witness this truly accessible show and appreciate the generosity of the performers and everyone involved in sharing their culture in today’s wildly complex contemporary context.