Porcelain: Fusing three art forms through the language of dance (Review)

July 28th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  


New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) What happens when three genres of art - visual, performing and audio - come together? A new language encompassing art in its totality is created. New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) What happens when three genres of art - visual, performing and audio - come together? A new language encompassing art in its totality is created.

Porcelain, a contemporary dance performance by Chennai-based Bharatnatyam dancer Preethi Athreya Saturday that marked the end of three-day The Park’s New Festival in the capital, showed that dance, fine arts and music are complementary almost to a point of synergy. And the idiom of dance is fast changing shape.

The Chennai-based Prakriti Foundation brought the show to the capital.

Set to the sculptures of Munich-based German ceramic artist Walter Sturmer and strung together with music by son Tobias Sturmer, a percussionist, composer and ethno-musicologist, the performance was essentially the adaptation of the dancer’s body language to match the fluidity and the brittle lines of the material that Sturmer used to create his sculpted and solid shapes.

For Athreya, trained in the orthodox traditions of the Shanta and Dhananjaya school of Bharatnatyam and later with Padmini Chettur and Chandralekha, the choreography was an experiment to portray the geometry of art through the body and to bring diverse forms and material under one umbrella.

“This is the first time I have tried to fuse different genres of art though it is very common in the world of contemporary dance globally,” said the Chennai-based dancer, who has been working on the show for almost a year.

The 45-minute show aided by a projector and sound technicians was different because it required complete coordination between all the three faculties, especially on the part of the viewer, to get into the thick of the concept.

While the projector beamed images of Sturmer’s works, mostly undulating shapes and cubic forms, on the wide screen that was the backdrop, Tobias’s metallic percussion sounds tried to convey the way the fragile clay twisted and turned in the sculpture’s hand.

The percussion beats, which were minimal, recreated the sounds of hammering, splintering, chiselling and kneading - so vital to sculpting.

Athreya moulded her body to depict the flow of the medium - building, heaving and shattering into shards before reviving itself into simplistic forms in the artist’s nimble fingers.

Her movements, which were initially slow, controlled and languorous, became rigid, jerky and angular towards the end in tandem with the stages of creation - from fluid to solid shapes.

The images were transformed into light; inhabitable spaces defined by the moving body to draw out the essence of the material.

Athreya played with shadows, light, darkness and a code of lustrous colours. A milky-blue hue of the moulded clay gave away to a warm golden light that bathed the dancer and the sculptures in the backdrop, as the tenor of the body movements heightened in the later stages.

“Art has always been an inspiration for me. I hardly ever see other dance performances. Instead I visit art and sculpture shows whenever possible,” the dancer, who likes to play with a plethora of forms and demystify them, told IANS.

“I love deconstructing and reconstructing simple solid forms with the language of my body and share the experience with the world. Dance as a medium has changed for me,” the dancer said.

Solid forms are abiding influences in Athreya’s art. While porcelain, which is as good as any material in the dancer’s words, makes her movements delicate, slow and introspective, terracotta gives her energy.

“There is no narrative in porcelain, it is only a texture of emotions. For me, the colours and contours of porcelain become a point of departure in the show,” the dancer explained.

Athreya, who has two contemporary dance choreographies, “Kamakshi” and “Inhabit 2006″, to her credit, is preparing her next project. “It is also a collage of forms. I have just started collecting material and researching,” she said.

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