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Tribal dance with a modern twist

If one could write poetry using space, Chhau would be the medium,” says Delhi-based contemporary dancer and founder of dance company Sadhya, Santosh Nair, over the telephone. Nair and his troupe’s performance, titled Roots, will be showcased at the NCPA on May 30.

Nair, who started training as a Kathakali dancer in 1989, took up Mayurbhanj Chhau out of fascination for its body movements. “It is very important for a contemporary dancer to have a base in classical or traditional dance forms. Our performance will begin with Nataraj, a traditional Chhau dance on Shiva.


Santosh Nair’s performances will include a traditional Chhau dance on Shiva

Another item is Sabar Topka, the Shikari dance, which depicts the hunters of Orissa, where the dance form originated. This piece will enact the hunter’s search for prey, the kill and the victory dance.

The performance will conclude with a Yodha dance that will highlight martial arts movements using swords and shields,” explains Nair, adding that the troupe will dance to recorded music. “A live music performance would need a team of drummers, but we face limitations when we travel. Being a contemporary dance, we have choreographed many portions creating drama by incorporating lighting techniques.”

Traditional Chhau dance has three basic forms - martial, kalibhanga (lasya or grace) and a mix of the two called Kallikatti. “Lasya is lighter for the audience to absorb. We have added a different flavour to the structured dance form. We play a lot with space, and add more fluidity to the dharan (basic posture) and the ulfis (movements). While our costume is mostly trendy dhotis, we hope to impress the audience with our powerful and free movement,” concludes Nair.

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