December 30, 2016 marks the tenth death anniversary of Chandralekha. To mark the event, there will be a series of performances over the course of December 28-30 at SPACES, in Chennai. What follows below is a developing archive of video footage from performances, interviews and seminars with and about Chandralekha's ouevre.
I feel that traditions have to be tested in the light of the sun.
To begin with, filmmaker Ein Lall captures Chandralekha in the process of exploring her faith in her mission to set free the body, allowing movement to flow freely and seamlessly— in a film that draws on three major works, Shree, Raga and Sharira.
My own quest is centred around a conscious return to the body… the poetry and power in the
bodies of men and women. Where does the body begin… and end?
In the book Chandralekha: Choreographic Works Anigka to Sharira, 1985-2003, edited by Sadanand Menon, the choreographer’s note for Sharira reads, “Body corporeal and Body conceptual. Body as a path towards a return to vast inner spaces of hidden resources. Areas of pulsating points and contained forces. Sharira is about the profound and invisible female energies that can activate our outer and inner selves. Sharira explores the body as a transformative field for ascending feminine force, to evoke the condition within which the ‘self’ can experience the world. Sharira celebrates the living thing in which sexuality, sensitivity and spirituality co-exist-acknowledging no limit, borders, boundaries.”
Here is an extract from a 2009 performance of Sharira, starring Tishani Doshi and Shaji John, at the India Habitat Centre.
(A complete version of an early performance in Chennai can be accessed here.)
It's not just dance, but … the whole immediate world around you, what is happening all around you—and these concerns—somehow they come together and coalesce in your work.
A performance of Lilavati choreographed by Chandralekha, supported by the Department of Indian mathematics at the Lucknow University:
What is the power of the body, what is the dignity of the body, is Namaskar just a genuflection?
Do you dive at somebody's feet and just go limp?
Here is an interview in Hindi with the rebel dancer-choreographer, conducted at her residence in Chennai in 1992. This showcase also features video extracts from several of her works, like Namaskar, Navagraha, Praana, and Shri, which Chandralekha discusses at length, alongside her excitement about the process of learning her art form, and her stance on the function of a cultural bureacracy at play in the larger field.
I think I will never be able to live without indignation. For me, it stands against everything that you cannot accept; life without indignation is impossible. You see so much that is wrong, and you look at it, and it is not possible not to be brutalised by it. The more I internalise this anger, this protest in my work, the calmer I feel.
And finally, Sadanand Menon's video lecture on Chandralekha, from 2009:
Finally, we have to go on breaking these institutions, because they all become decadent. They all come to sea. My statement to this cultural bureaucracy that never moved a little finger, that never did help me—my statement to them has been, 'I exist in spite of you.'
To know more about the Chandralekha Memorial Event (2016), click here.
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