Gigs, dance, art

May 4th, 2010: Padmini Chettur – Beautiful Thing 1


I had high hopes for this show. I love Padmini Chettur‘s work, and so far I had liked each show better than the ones before. That streak is still ongoing, I think I liked Beautiful Thing 1 even more than Pushed, and that’s saying something. I also think fewer people left; hopefully that will keep her being invited here in the coming years. I’ll definitely be there, maybe more than once, I’d really like to see these shows again, from a different angle.

At  first there were four dancers, two moving slowly and two faster, with the fifth one sitting on the side. As they turned the fast pair slowed down until they matched the slower pair at the end of that sequence. They introduced some movements that would come back often, those I picked up at that point were bending forward, bent legs with knees leading, and a palm on the chin lifting the head up.

Then the dancers took turns naming body parts that would then lead their movements; maybe that was just the naming skewing my perception though. I loved that sequence, I’d say my favorite was the one that started with raising a shoulder, with the whole body joining the movement. That starting point changed, but the joining was always there.

The pace picked up as they went into faster sequences built out of those elements, with one or two dancers in sync until they called out a number and left. Often there would be a second pair two, doing something else and the numbers changing the focus as well as the lineup.

Then most of the lights went out and the five of them were back-lit and moved slowly to the front right corner of the stage. The light must have come back along the way, but I didn’t even notice, I was that focused on the dance. When one of the dancer held the head of the one next to her, I got a jolt and only then notice the lights were back on.

The movements were different then, with straighter limbs, less turning and even some walking in straight lines. There one dancer would lead the other by holding her head, and another one would be on her own but moving like the held one, sometimes with her own hands matching the position of the holding one on her own face. There were many variants on these relations, but it wasn’t a complete exploration of combination. Some were left out, and that struck me as important, whether they had done enough to imply the rest, or whether it was an affirmation of choice. This also made me think of the one dancer that didn’t join the first sequence as being just as much a part of it as if she had been moving.

They briefly went back to separate positions and introduced hand and finger movements that reminded me — for the first time in her work — of classical Indian dance. They moved to a line in front of the stage and started reciting words that matched those hand signs. Then the words matched what another was doing, then they stopped moving while keeping the words coming.

They then put on the turtlenecks that had been lying in front of the stage, and pulled on that to lead more slow turns, first separately then in pairs. Sometimes the movements followed the pulling, sometimes they went the other way to balance. That went on until each in turn was pulled down to the ground, the last two at the same time. Then they were all lying face down, opening and closing their arms and legs as they were slowing turning and the lights went out.

Most of the show was slow, and I guess I can understand that some people were put off by the lack of virtuosity and called it severe. It probably demands some focus, but that slight effort is rewarded in spades. Personally, that was my favorite dance show since Rosas Danst Rosas, and I think it was a very generous one. It held a lot of different ideas, and left each one for another before going through everything it could have yielded. There are several ways to interpret that, and I like the openness of not settling all these. She probably had one in mind, but she didn’t feel the need to be more explicit about it. Chances are I’m off the mark, but knowing how difficult it is for me to get the right thing, I appreciate the freedom to take this show in and forget about the meaning.

There was much more, for instance I didn’t mention the words in the first half. And there are many things I’m sure I didn’t even notice. I’d love to see this again, and to see more of her work. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker remains my favorite choreographer, but Padmini Chettur is seriously closing in.


May 9, 2010 - Posted by | Dance | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Hi,
    I just read your comment about Padmini’s work,I also like her work a lot. have been attending her classes in Chennai for the past years and am a Paris based Indian dancer. Am happy to see that some people appreciate her work which is undoubtely different from what people could expect from an “Indian” dancer ! Cheers!

    Comment by Jasmine | June 20, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s