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Dance extraordinaire

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Shantala Shivalingappa and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui bring contemporary Kuchipudi to the stage in ‘Play’ at the OzAsia Festival 2015

Paris-based dancer Shantala Shivalingappa and Belgian dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, of Moroccan origin, performed a contemporary dance entitled ‘Play’ as part of Adelaide’s recent OzAsia Festival 2015.
Play.Indian Link
This piece is dedicated to the renowned choreographer Pina Bausch who has been a huge inspiration to Shantala.
Although Shantala was born in Madras, she has lived all her life in Paris.
Music and dance would have come to her naturally being the daughter of Savitri Nair, a dancer and teacher of Bharatnatyam.
As a little girl, Shantala would join in the classes being taken by her mother. It was not until her teenage years, on a visit to India, that she fell in love with the Kuchipudi style of dance.
Since then she has been actively involved in promoting Kuchipudi through both dancing as well as choreographing pieces for other dancers.
Living in Paris, Shantala has naturally been exposed to all forms of western dance, so it’s no surprise that she has also immersed herself in contemporary dance and movement.
Over time she has performed all over the world to much acclaim. Play itself has been performed at other venues in the past and Shantala is no stranger to Adelaide, having taken part in several events recently.
‘Play’ is a music and dance show combining a modified form of the Kuchipudi dance style with contemporary dance styles.
Play.Indian Link
Music was an integral part of the performance with the musicians interestingly placed on moveable individual mini-stages with their instruments. Otherwise, the set was minimalist; the stage bare, costumes casual.
As Shantala said in the Q&A session following the performance, the object of ‘Play’ was actually to “encounter the world at play”.
The performance showed various forms of play and how learning takes place while having fun at play.
Games challenge the players and they evolve, inspire each other and express their emotions.
There were puppets, lots of singing and ever-changing dance patterns.
Perhaps the somewhat overlong chess-game at the start and the discourse by Shantala on happiness and pleasure could be re-thought.
In her dancing, we see her agility, poise and sense of fun not to mention her facial expressions which are perhaps a reflection of her Kuchipudi background.
Solo dancers have to captivate the audience with the perfection of their dance in their movements and the story they tell.
Dancing as a couple, a man and woman add an entirely different dimension to the performance.
Play.Indian Link
Here we had the mix of playfulness, intimacy, desire and hurt and many other emotions that come between a man and woman.
Shantala has a nice singing voice and sang in Hindi, including a Meera bhajan, while she danced.
Other music accompanying the dance included medieval songs with harp and viola accompaniment providing enchanting support for the dancers.
Combining flamenco and Indian rhythms in dance was quite unique and enthralling.
Sidi Cherkaoui could do anything in dance. Reading his biography I was left quite exhausted.
His history of works and performances surely could not happen if he was not a highly sought after and accomplished performer.
In ‘Play’ he and Shantala complemented each other perfectly. They played with each other and they played with the audience.
Here we had two performers at ease with each other combining to give a little something special to the audience.
Dance, like music, is ephemeral. It’s maddening that one can’t hang on to the emotion of a performance. The lights come on and the magic is gone. It’s now just a memory.
And I’ll settle for that.

Avi Chandiok
Avi Chandiok
Mountain-fit 70 year old whose greatest achievement is trekking to Everest Base Camp.

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