SHOMA A.CHATTERJI | 6 JULY, 2016
"FOR ME, DANCE IS LIFE ITSELF"
Sudarshan Chakravorty is today an internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, director and founder of Sapphire Creations globally known for pushing the borders of the language, form and content of dance in different ways and creating new ways of viewing, perceiving and understanding dance in its myriad manifestations. Sapphire’s newest production Econama is the most experimental and ambitious among all the shows it has created and presented over the past two decades. Sapphire is currently touring Poland to stage Econama among their other productions. It has been holding international performances of contemporary dance forms over the past several years in different state capitals in the country. In a one-to-one interview, Sudarshan talks at length about this production.
Q. EKONAMA - The Beginning at the End - what exactly are you trying to state through this title?
Eko- comes from the word ecology and Nama- is a narrative or story like akbarnama etc. The production is futuristic and starts from a state of earth where we all stand in a periphery of devastation where humanity is at stake.
Q. Your performance focusses on the world when environment in terms of Nature is non-existent. Why did you frame the performance in this way?
We begin on the assumption of a land that is barren and depleted of all natural resources and start at a point from devastation. This is to emphasize on both the fragility and vulnerability of human existence. The production wanted to transgress beyond the level of a general story-telling that is mundane with characters and narratives of hope, beauty and dream to cushion the comfort of the audience psyche. The aim was to depict the helplessness of mankind when it fails to create the ripples of dynamic energy anymore to control or evoke nature. Artistically I wanted to represent the cause of environment by creating a new benchmark in more than one ways of presentation, vocabulary, use of technology and more.
Q. You have deliberately stripped the performance of the aesthetics of beauty dance is traditionally recognized as. Why?
Dance is the most misunderstood medium of art and communication. It has not been taken seriously as a vehicle of social change unlike theatre and. The audience has always looked at dance as a means of entertainment with or without social messages and even if it does carry a message, it is often camouflaged by the ornate and detailed ‘aharya’ that dwarfs it’s ‘sahitya’ or narrative. There was never an attempt to make the performance poetic. We were decided that we would establish the eerie and the chaotic emotions that underlined in the ritualistic chores and movement of the dancers in an attempt to hold on to their GODS and salvage themselves as a community.
Q. You have portrayed God not to be above or immune to environmental degradation. Would you please explain what led you to this thought?
It is not GOD but ‘belief’ of human civilization that creates God. So when the time comes where human existence itself becomes a question, how do they worship their Gods, caress their beliefs and what happens to their rituals and themselves as a community? When humans become sub- humans, the basic divinity of Gods is questioned….
Q. ECONAMA is a dark production and you have said this yourself. Why?
I did not ever want to make it ‘rosy’ or ‘comfortable‘for the audience. I wanted to disturb the audience from its comfort zone and actually feel the suffocation of the performers where fertility of Mother Earth and Femininity is questioned, where Mankind fails to comfort the womb of nature. It is the last hope that comes as a surrealistic scene in the form of a pregnant woman in red, as if dipped in her menstrual blood, she waits to be caressed and looked after well by mankind, like a ‘dream’ which resurrects the belief of mankind to tread ahead in this barren soil and keep alive its belief that it will be consolidated again as a community.
Q. What motivated you to create and choreograph this very abstract version of EKONAMA?
Sapphire Company and I have been struggling to establish dance as a vehicle of social consciousness over the years. Whether its homosexuality, man-woman relationship, consumerism, HIV AIDS etc, Sapphire has always been committed in its continuous effort to spread awareness and talk about issues which otherwise are never spoken on stage through dance. I am known for expressing dance that is ahead of time, .whether I spoke of Same Gender love 20 years ago or now when I portray a scary, fragile and helpless human condition under global warming. I have always wanted to see ‘dance beyond entertainment’ and create an alternative vocabulary of Modern dance in India which is not derivative and yet considered as a strong physical discipline vis-a-vis other traditional dance genres.
Q. How do you define ‘dance’ in your perception today?
For me, dance is not a part of life. It is LIFE itself. Yet, let me expand this idea and state that for me, contemporary dance is a separate discipline and an unique language that becomes the personal voice of the performer who is part of the larger society and world we all live in. This performance and others like it must be looked at through a different lens that will vary with person, time, society and culture and will keep the ripples spreading forever.