The Old Port
Nothing like performances…. For a few minutes, you breathe, you are happy and you let the world appear as it is.
And this is probably what will happen to all of us at the PondyPHOTO exhibition opening up this Saturday, the 27th of August, in Pondicherry, when we will be treated to dancing, singing and mime shows, directed and performed mostly by Aurovilians.
My first introduction was to Noeul, an Aurovilian, who was an art director and producer in Seoul, Korea. Those Aurovilian women on big motorbikes somehow always impress me, something about it is intimidating, slightly masculine, something you do not want to fool around with. Same thing with Noeul and perhaps even sharper – short hair, jeans, scarf – I knew I had in front of me astuteness, discipline, and professionalism, all with a big touch of courtesy and kindness as she came to pick me up to guide me to the house where the dance rehearsal was taking place.
The theme of PondyPHOTO is water, and Noeul, who programmed the performances for the event, decided to be eclectic, mixing styles, environment and cultures. In the dilapidated decor of the “Old Port” in Pondicherry, this Korean art producer decided it was time for a change and she chose a combination of classic, contemporary and hip pop dances, first as solos, then ending in an exotic salad production with the three styles combined.
Like in all kinds of art, it is the soul of the artist which is the expression of the art, and in dancing, it is mostly the movement which expresses emotions, choreography embodying everything from happiness to rage. And it is not only the essence of the artists being expressed, but also the story of their lives.
And when the theme is water, the place is Pondicherry, India and the performers Aurovilians, you can expect stories, sagas, surprises….
The two brothers Suresh and Ramdjiet are not only duo dancers but also artistic directors, dance masters, choreographers, costume designers, stylists and probably more… What make them so unique is that they are custodians of the compositions of the Tanjore Quartet, the grandmasters of Bharatanatyam. Belonging to the India-Dutch diaspora, they were born in Surinam and raised in Amsterdam. Practitioners of Indian classical dance are rightly proud of the ancient heritage they embody. They are devoted to their gurus and lineage and tradition, though they are artists of the present, and many of them, especially the young, long to be innovative, up-to-date and relevant.
In their case they were blessed to be the students of the late multiple-award-winner, Prof. Guru K.P Kittapa Pillai, the great-great grandson of Sri Sivanandam of the Tanjore Quartet – four brothers of the 19th century royal court of Tanjore whose historical lineage goes back in an unbroken and direct line to the middle ages. Asking them how they came into dancing, they simply answer me that they were born dancers, issued from dancers, almost with a dancer DNA.
Suresh and Ramdjiet will be performing the dance of Varuna, the God of Water, a forgotten piece from the 19th century. Proud of the purity of their lineage, they made a point to tell me that their choreography is clear, strong and transparent as crystal, devoid of all haphazard variations and gimmicks. I’m sure the costumes will be as magnificent as the piece, and what touched me the most in our conversation was the gratefulness that they had not only to their master, but also to their mother. Issued from a family of 11 children, they acknowledge the source of their strength, discipline and grace to this woman who had to raise them on her own and truly, there is no higher nobility than that.
Performing a dance solo is one thing, but performing a dance solo that you’ve choreographed yourself is an all other level. Grace is not only going to perform a “water dance”, she is going to perform Auroville, as all her being and essence is Auroville. Dance is motion, enacted by a live artist, and in some aspect forever fading into memory at its creation.
She came to Auroville when she was 7 months old. She was blessed to have known The Mother who used take her on her lap and who gave her the name Grace, intuiting the destiny and essence of this little baby.
And like Suresh and Ramdjiet, Grace is grateful to what and who she is. She has a consciousness about her individuality and identity. She is dancing like flowering out her body, remembering how she learned how to swim in what was called “le parc a carbon”, called Park Guest House now in Pondicherry. She is dancing to the music of Pascalou, a French musician and singer of Auroville whose words about water used to be on every Auroville child’s lips. She is dancing in homage to him, intermingling memories and creation, she is dancing Auroville, and her dance is like a sport of the soul in which years of training have led to transcendence, masking effort at all time, she is coming home…. and her effect is celestial.
This article was written by Chana Corinne Devor for Auroville Art Service. Presently exploring Auroville, she is an art critic and writes for international travel and spiritual magazines.