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Speaking in Tongues..

On January 27th '02 the Aurovilians and their guests were treated to a lovely, dynamic and sprite dance performance in the Bharat Nivas Auditorium, skillfully choreographed and danced by Aurovilian artists.

'Speaking in Tongues' is a 30 minute encounter for two dancers. It may be that the short and captivating piece embodies cross-cultural textures of movement, imagination, mood and music. Or maybe it's really about worlds that echo in simultaneous contact with each other..

Is there a common ground for friends?

Dancers: Grace (the Netherlands) and Kanchana (India)
Choreography: Anu (India)

Anu, the choreographer reports:

There were three of us in this experiment, Aurovilians, bringing to the overall work our combined complexities of dance languages, imagination and character. Dutch Grace brought to it a rich repertoire of Ballet, Modern and African dance movements. Indian Kanchana gave it her flawless Odissi and her openness to experiment. Their individual potentials gave me, the Indian choreographer, a wonderful resource base to which I added my own movement tendencies that have grown out of the combined polarities of Bharatanatyam and T'ai Chi.

Vocabularies of movement

Just as the human voice can speak all languages, so also the human body can 'speak' all movement. The human potential was endless and very free. Since we had been invited to create a work for a festival on movement research in Bangalore, it felt like a good occasion to experiment.
As a choreographer I wanted to find a way to combine the different vocabularies of movement, stylisations, mood and expression, or to push them to their own limit, till they were obliged to change - in a way that would feel spontaneous, effortless, without jarring edges, moving from one to the other in continuous transitions of movement. There were moments when the form was obvious, the next moment, it had gone or shifted or morphed into another character. The idea was not to reject or be afraid of anything, but to embrace everything as given possibilities to play with. So, I included elements of traditional abhinaya and simple mime as well. The important thing with this work was not so much the importance of forms, but their complex co-existence and unity. In Auroville, we enjoy or are challenged by this 'common ground' all the time, so what better excuse..

Unexpected encounters

Speaking in Tongues developed first as solo experiences for the two dancers, combined with unexpected encounters that challenged their curiosity or sense of self, bringing them closer and closer to an acceptance of one another as each one connected with her own inner center. For these 'encounters' I encouraged them to find their own expressions, so that their impulse in reaction or counterpoint would draw from their personal sensibilities and body language and make it natural to their personalities.

I've got to get to somewhere deep in my soul, surrendered

The title for this work originated from a piece by Sheila Chandra called 'Speaking in Tongues # IV'. It is a complex yet compact experiment with Indian rhythm patterns, scatted with quick, sharp changes. It includes unexpected stops, sudden traffic sounds, a sarangi wail, shifts in mood, even words that sounded like an advertisement jingle, except that they said: I've got to get to somewhere deep in my soul, surrendered. I proposed this to Grace for her solo, a challenge she welcomed where the choreography used the energy, speed and dynamics of modern dance in coalition with Bharatanatyam lines and structures and mood.

Fluid energy, subtle mood and free cadence

Odissi sets an entirely different room temperature and its way to enter, to slip in out of contemporary structures, its fluid energy, subtle mood and free cadence was very interesting to explore. For this piece with Kanchana we chose an extract from Keith Jarret's Köln Concert which she liked very much, to explore the different sensibilities echoing each other, opening and harmonizing, in simultaneous contact.

Mantra with rock & roll flavour

For the last part, Grace wanted to try something from Talvin Singh's music to be danced by both of them. We chose the famous Gayatri Mantra with an electronic rock & roll flavour.., like a prayer rushing through the chaos of the world. This CD is called OK. That's exactly the feeling I wanted to have here, two different people who had finally found their center and it was perfectly okay and comfortable and interesting to share the world. Their 'encounters' had moved from open hostility, doubt, and condescension, to friendliness, acceptance and trust.

Use of light and shadow

One last element was the light, and the use of shadows to create an additional layer to movement. This was taken care of by Aurovilian Jean and we used the shadow of the body that was figurative but we treated it in abstract ways. The idea for this came from watching the Bharat Nivas Auditorium tech. crew for years, as they went about their business of moving, changing and focusing spots for performances during the set-up stage and the unexpected play of shadows it would conjure. We decided to use this as another element or layer of the overall movement.

I'm grateful I had a chance to create this work with all of them. It was intense, demanding, fun and tough. It's usually like that when we speak in tongues..
I looked up 'Speaking in Tongues' on the internet one day. This phrase is used in the Bible to mean when one speaks out, inspired by God. Although we had no such intentions, there was a certain tongue-in-cheek element to circumstances that we couldn't quite ignore sometimes..



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