Padmini Chettur and beautiful thing 2 - Conversation
Cinematographer: Shaina Anand
Duration: 00:52:36; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 25.354; Saturation: 0.316; Lightness: 0.255; Volume: 0.370; Cuts per Minute: 1.274; Words per Minute: 114.640
Summary: A conversation during a movement showcase by Padmini Chettur. Chettur, who presented material from her recent solo choreography beautiful thing 2, is in conversation with the people at Clark House Initiative (Zasha Colah, Nida Ghouse, Zubin Pastakia and Sumesh Sharma) and an audience. This conversation is initiated by Zasha Colah, who attempts to describe Padmini's movement quality. Padmini talks about her reference points - from the idea of the dynamic-static in yoga to the urge to be economic and precise in her movement.
During the first conversation, not seen here, the questions are more general. Asked about what she looks for in the dancers she works with, she jokes - it's a bonus if they're able to touch their toes. She talks about Chandralekha; she worked with her for over a decade. Back then, the audition question was - can you do splits - Padmini vividly describes the hapless dancers careening into splits in the middle of hotel lobbies.
Here there is an intense interrogation of space, the body in/ as space and time. Those from the audience who are watching her for the second time are also more at ease in the space and they notice and dwell things that did not surface earlier, like the mobile artworks - curatorial interventions, suspended from the ceiling, and the drawings from Padmini's notebooks.
She talks about the politics of being slotted as an Indian dancer as opposed to being called a 'dancer from India'.
Padmini Chettur (b. 1970) is a contemporary dancer whose training began in the traditional Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam. Between the years 1991 and 2001 she worked with the legendary choreographer Chandralekha. In 1994 she began her own artistic research. Her choreographic productions include Fragility (2001), 3 Solos (2003), Paper Doll (2005), Pushed (2006) and beautiful thing 1 (2009).
architectures of the body
Zasha Colah begins the conversation after Padmini's second movement showcase. She observes that the diagonals in Padmini's movement are foregrounded, and says, "...what I noticed even more so this time was the internal diagonals in the body which, especially from a visual arts point of view is a very exciting wealth of possibility..."
Zasha cites an example of a raised arm and a displaced head, seeing these internal displacements as an opening up of the body, making it an architecture of lines and, "not just one that is drawing lines - as maybe the earlier one was; it's almost an internal revolution and rotation," she says.
Laxmi Mills, Mahalakshmi, Bombay, India
Padmini: Repeating movement, I think, is much easier than repeating a conversation, but, of course I understand that some of us are new here. I think that one of the things that I've been looking at which I think comes a lot from practice of yoga...there are two things from yoga that I learn a lot from. One is the idea of the dynamic-static, especially in particular schools of yoga where we actually remain in the poses over a longer period of time. One of the statements of the choreographer that I worked with for ten years - Chandralekha, was - don't let rigor mortis set in; keep an energy flowing in the body. Which is all very, I mean it's very well to say this but I think it took years to understand this because one has to start by thinking where does the energy comes from into the body - and where does it emerge. So this is one of the very interesting...researches (sic) almost that we've been doing for a long time, and it allows enormous lengthening of the body, but not even in the way that we know the concept of lengthening from ballet; you know, it's really a hyper-extension of the body into space and where does that body then go and where does that energy dissolve.
Padmini: So if one is constantly looking at cycles of taking energy into the body and then moving it, which is I think what maybe we notice at a certain point is that - it's not also (sic) possible - when a lot of people watch me they think it's about stamina and it's...you know, actually very tiring, which it is. But it's also learning to be economic. And it's learning to only do enough and also too much beyond this can again make the body very closed. So it's a lot about learning to channelise these cycles of energy and in order to do that, it's very...I think, important for me to really understand anatomy.
Padmini: Because, it's quite interesting - if you sometimes go to a physiotherapist with something wrong with your knee, you actually realise the problem is not with the knee; it may not even be with the hip, you know, which is near the knee, but it could be actually right up here (moves her hand to the base of her neck).
Padmini: And to understand these connections of bone, which are all very very detailed and interesting is also a very important part for me to then find vocabulary. Because - to really understand - how does this toe connect to this finger - one has to really travel through every bone of the body, and to know which muscle to relax, to know which to open. So these are sort of...part of I think just the work of anatomy that goes into then finding, coming up with a form which is visual...you know, where there's a lot of thinking and studying inside, I think, which then allows the body to open out.
Zasha: This piece...(indistinct)...about one year?
Padmini: ...took me a year to research...
Zasha brings up something Padmini has mentioned in the past, about her transition from Euclidian, rather, Cartesian geometry to a particular understanding of space and time.
Zasha: ...that the object becomes something we can't really imagine...
Padmini: ...that too. But there was also a very particular play for me with just the plane - the idea of plane. And, the body is rounded. So the plane then becomes quite imaginable. But for me one of the tasks...I was talking to Nida earlier; for me, it is very important to limit choice when I determine or decide movement and one of the ways for me to close the options down is to say - okay, the body stays in a certain plane, but the body still wants to move from point A to B and then the way to move there was actually only through rotation. So the...it's funny - it's only when I first showed the piece to people that this whole conversation about the rotation and the axis started. It wasn't even a very - it wasn't a conscious choreographic intention - the intention for me was just really to get to there - but to actually remain in a certain plane - so almost constricting - and - I'm always looking for the only option of movement - and that's how I arrived at the entire work of finding it (?).
It's also like - if you're stuck in a very narrow corridor, you can't just walk like this - you immediately turn and you try to inch your way - so I mean, it's a bit like that same analogy.
Zasha: And, what's coming to mind is that there are these truisms of the body, right, or axioms of the body that you sort of research into and almost discover...at the same time, I want to lead into another question about iconography.
That, there are somehow - when you watch...you see certain things in your own...as an audience...submerged history or vocabulary of images or archive of images that are sort of submerged but they suddenly appear as...
truisms of the body
Harappan dancing girl
simplicity of line and form
Padmini:...that's quite...I mean, I think why we draw these parallels is also I think that - in the oldest way of performing body, perhaps the most raw forms of sculpture and painting. Even yesterday, it was interesting when we were thinking of doing these figures on the wall and then Zubin said something about cave painting. So, and I see that; when I draw the figure, I'm not very good at drawing. But I always just see the body as one blob and ...(indistinct)...a few lines. And I think that the geometry of the body is so pure and simple, in actual fact, that I think until the moment where dance started to perhaps evolve into more sophisticated shapes, so, perhaps, that's the reason we come back to those very old, simple forms, because those are the most obvious ways, I think, to use the body. And the world's most clear - we don't clutter the lines up too much.
Zasha: I think - what's interesting is that you sent us the Mohenjodaro figurine of the dancing woman, which I'm sure we all have in our visual memory. But you said you came across it after choreographing the entire beautiful thing
Padmini: ...said that that's line 5.
Zasha: that's line 5...(indistinct)...almost discovering a truism or...
Padmini:...yeah. I think so but it was also, I think, in my work with Chandra which must affect me somehow. It was a lot of talk about these matrikas, and she always used to say to us, you know - don't think of yourself as a young dancer, think of yourself as an ancient woman. And we were constantly looking at these images, you know, of these matrikas and how they would stand; it was very iconographic. And that was a big part of her conscious vocabulary but then for me I think it's so subconscious in a way but I'm sure there are those layers that are somehow just emerging. And whereas I immediately look at it more analytically and less...whatever...iconographically, but for her those forms were a big part of her work.
Sumesh: I'd like to discuss something else. In your notes for beautiful thing 2
, you discuss that in 1994, when you started off with your practice, you created a work that was basically discovering self-expression and then it moved on to 2000. You thought that by making a radical piece you might change...the central perception of India (?) You might see a kind of equity in the art world. And then in 2008, you believed that...
Padmini: complete cynicism.
Sumesh: that the battles of culture and identity cannot be fought by dance. You were looking at something which is more economic and precise.
Indian cultural perception
Sumesh speaks of how a perception of India has always involved the use of dance. He cites the example of cultural initiatives like the Festivals of India which involved sending a host of Indian artists to other countries to encourage a kind of 'nation-building'. Given that Padmini has seen a fair amount of recognition around the world since she created her first piece in 2001, he seems to ask if she sees some kind of change where she is now an established part of this Indian cultural perception.
Padmini: Yeah, I don't think it was so much about acceptance.
Sumesh: Yeah, but...
Padmini: It is; a - when I wrote the note, it was really the time when I was so tired of content in the way that we know it - of this whole business that dance has to have a message or say something. You know, I was very tired of this. And I was also at a point over my ten years of touring internationally, starting to feel more and more isolated. It wasn't that I was less or more recognised, but it was - when I started, at least the boxing of Indianism was overt, apparent and not a hidden agenda. And ten years later, I started to feel, well, actually nothing has changed - especially within India. Nothing has changed - I mean the ICCR is still not going to send me to South Africa on tour. So we're still in the same business of projecting ourselves in a certain way and conveniently the West also.
And particularly I find in the rest of Asia it's even worse than Europe, you know, with this whole 'boxing' of Asia. And therefore my thinking at a certain point was to actually just not concentrate on the composition and to keep things really simple. Um, and yeah, not have these lofty ideas. But when I started my work in international festivals, I was so cocky and brash about it, and I even started with this grand policy that I'm not going to the festivals of India. Not just government festivals, but also, ______in Brussels wants to do an India focus for instance, and put me next to Alarmel Valli, something something something, I was - I thought when I'm going to - this is my politic, by refusing these forums and only showing my work at mainstream dance festivals where it's not 'Indian Padmini Chettur' but 'Padmini Chettur from India' which is a completely different way of describing. This was sort of - the thinking - naive thinking - that I felt would start to move or to open out mainstream dance. But yeah, five years later, there was just not enough work, because there weren't enough forums, you know, where somebody from India could be amongst others. And so I started finally to reenter these festivals of - not really festivals of India but - India Focus...is what they call it. And I really thought now I just can't be bothered with this politic.
Sumesh: With you discourse and your vocabulary in dance, I see that you've already - you've actually achieved this quickly because - like you were - telling us before that the smaller villages in Belgium where a dance scholar is brought in to talk about a history of the dance within the Indian context over the last 5000 yrs...(indistinct; he speaks about Padmini's vocabulary and discourse resonating with an audience that does not have that context)
Padmini: Absolutely. But we don't have that discourse. See, we neither developed it within the country amongst our dance writers and there are - have been small attempts - I think, from critics in the West. But it's always like they're not sure; there's some hesitancy and some fear of...it's almost like...some critic wrote about me once - we're not sure what part of her work comes from Bharatanatyam and what part doesn't, so finally the work is an anthropology, at which point the festival director said - please give me an anthropology. But...so, people are confused. I think people don't know enough to see that it's clearly not Bharatanatyam; at the same time, they don't know enough to see...even within India, I often get the question - have you ever learned Bharatanatyam? So - because I've moved so far - and, how does one describe this - twenty years of moving away from a starting point just like this - you know - I first did this, then I did that and one can't keep describing this process. But, I mean for me it's very clear, you know - what is Bharatanatyam in my work and what does it (?) - and, but it's very difficult, I think, for other people to see it.
Nida: We'll start taking some questions.
Audience member: Coming back to a point that I think Zasha was trying to talk about initially, I saw both your performances. Maybe it's because I changed my place; I was sitting there earlier (points to a spot behind Padmini, to stage right), now I'm sitting here. But in the first, the impression that I got was that your body was actually, sort of, trying to draw something in space. Whereas, in the second, your body seemed to be the drawing itself. Is there some sort of conscious intention in the way you perceive what your body should be doing?
Padmini: Yeah, I think...there is, I think what you're seeing as a change is also to do with very particular material that I chose. So that, I think, has something to do with it. But I think, also, yeah, with dance, every time is different. And, I think this is very important - to demechanise what we do, because imagine doing this, like, every day, for like three months. Um, I think also the second time for me the space was more my friend in a sense. So I was a little bit more in the space. I could, yeah, I could just try different things and I'm - and yeah, therefore you could see it differently but I don't - I think - this is also maybe you watching it the first time and the second time. And maybe also the second time because of this one central moment, you know, which is really in the floor, this rotation in the floor, maybe we get more, this, what you were saying - the idea that the body is the drawing, somehow.
body as space
body in space
Audience member: Maybe what I'm trying to drive at is - in a sense, what do you see as the focus of your work while you are performing? Is it - is it a body, is it movement, is it the way you are negotiating space, I mean, what's going on in your head?
Padmini: It's somewhere a lot to do with balance. And I use the word 'balance' in multiple ways. So there's a way to observe particular balances in the space, which for me is a very important part of the vocabulary. But it's so many things; I think you can choose every time what to focus on, you know, and I think - I'm quite okay with this. Sometimes, maybe for the first few minutes when the line starts, people try to see what is she doing, and then when you've done it already three times (sic), then hopefully people will move, look around the body more, you know, and or like - there was this comment earlier, when I've drawn the curve from there to here (points to the start and end of the curve), every time we're seeing the body differently which almost makes you feel the movement - of your space. So I think, I don't ever decide how I want - as long as they watch and they - it's not - for me the worst viewers are really the ones who can't watch anything; then you have no...start (?) of this performance.
Nida crosses the space, taking the mic to someone else.
A second member of the audience asks a questions about Padmini's use of the space.
Padmini: If the performance is a real sort of theatre performance, so I normally have only (sic) the audience on one side. And when I have done something in a - also - informal way like this, then I would actually prefer to have people on - there and here (she gestures to the front and back). That's why I kept saying also (sic) that ask people to move but perhaps that's also because of the material that was in this section - these particular five lines, but maybe if I did the curve, or another line which isn't so much to do with this plane, then you'd perhaps see a plane also.
The woman who asked the question responds to Padmini. She talks of a particular moment in Padmini's movement when she stands close to a beam planted halfway between stage left and right, right in front of the assembled rectangle of tiles she moves on.
A third viewer speaks: Hi Padmini. I just wanted to say - I was coming in the taxi, and I was thinking - this city doesn't give me any space to...(indistinct, Padmini asks her to take the mic closer)...oh, sorry! So, when I came in here, and I mean, it
How exactly does your - the process of ideation, and you coming to this point, from the inception of the idea - when does the concept come on to - the idea of movement? Or how does sound - when does your sound happen - are you reacting to the sound or was it superimposed at a later stage? And when you choose a particular space like this, how did you react? Even the flooring by itself...(Padmini interjects with a question)...you know, even the flooring, typically you won't see dancers with (?) this kind of flooring.
She goes on to ask how such elements affect Padmini's process; how does she use them?
Many questions...um, maybe I'll just start towards the end. All of the material, the actual movement material - I start, actually, for me, idea is immediately movement - I don't really have an idea that's not to do with movement. So I start with the idea - then, how and what movement - that of course depends on every project. But I started with the piece in complete silence and in a studio not so different from this, with pillars and tubelights and all the rest of it. And actually, sound, though the composer of sound is actually watching me for almost six months before we begin, the work on sound then goes sort of back and forth. It is superimposed, in a way. And it is often - in fact, when I came here, this space, to do this today, because of the nature of the space I actually thought to keep this silent. Um, but something about...yeah, also the floor for me was difficult; it's a floor that was just constructed yesterday from found material by the artists and I felt that I needed - it was almost like I felt like I needed sound today. And my composer will laugh to hear this because I've been telling him forever and ever that I'm going to throw off your sound because I don't like it. But today it was a real help for me to bring it into a context which was familiar. If I worked here for a week, I'd really, yeah, enter the space, then I would not feel so nervous about it but today for me sound put me back into a familiarity, you know, which helped me to enter the material; it was the only familiar thing finally. But yeah, it's also...(shrugs)...it's interesting in a way. For me, my performances in the form that I usually perform them are actually very difficult to host here in India because...various problems. So, with this piece, because I am alone, because the nature of the piece doesn't demand the perfect floor or the perfect size, I felt I could be a little bit more flexible. I mean I wouldn't do something like this with my group work, but with this piece, I'm still looking, you know. If I can't - 'perform it' perform it, with light, the way I want, in a theatre, then, you know, how does one share the work? And, thanks to Clark House I'm here in Bombay - I haven't performed in Bombay for ten years.
Um, so, I think, rather than looking at the whole experience here as a reduction, one has to see it or start to see it mainly as another, just another dimension of work - and not, yeah - try to give it some value of its own.
I don't know if I answered your question because there were a lot of questions!
Shaina: Yeah, it's really nice that you're here in Bombay after ten, long years. And it's really wonderful but - um, it's a very short question. Why do you say your attempt is not to seduce but to convince?
Padmini: This was not me, haan, this was a journalist. (laughs)
Shaina: Then comment on it.
Padmini: I think that the whole seduction debate points very clearly to the way that - I mean one has to go back a little bit historically to answer the question. So I think when - especially in Bharatanatyam, when we first brought it into the proscenium. Not that the element of seduction was not there; it was always a form to seduce. But when we brought it into the space of proscenium, dancers for some reason, yeah, I think, found it quite difficult to resolve the understanding of just standing in front of - we jokingly say performing for the single white male but that's a very bad joke - all we got to (indistinct)...is this analogy. But it's...constantly, doing what we call playing for the audience, you know - batting the eyelids, certain coqeutry, which is quite unnecessary most of the time. Um, which has, especially for certain practitioners, become - I think - a very important part of their projection or presence - and I think the journalist who wrote this - Cartier Werner, uses this analogy of seduction simply because she also then later on spoke about the Bharatanatyam soloist and my own work as a soloist.
the seduction debate
Padmini: And I think with my work I hope to not enter this way of communicating. But, as you were saying earlier, it's also that - not that you just say - I do what I want and I don't care to carry the audience because you must carry the audience but I think the way to do it is somewhat - it's not through - ploys - it's not through embodying the idea of beautiful woman, but it's something else; I need it to be something else. So I think therefore this comment of convincing...
Shaina: No, that I read into it. I was just wondering that art still has an affective capacity and potential and it does (indistinct)...it does seduce, it does emote...
Padmini: But I think one has to read the word 'seduction' in a particular context, which is really a dance context.
Shaina: Yeah, yeah.
Audience member 4: I want to ask about the drawings on the wall, actually. Were they just sketches...
Padmini (interjects): From my notebooks and they were a way to, really - you know, we have quite a difficult time arriving at an - finding a way to make not just a performance and then a talk and you go home, but in my earlier interactions with Clark House artists, there was a lot of thinking about process - how do we reveal process and it was quite hard to be honest, because, I think, for me, process is so much here and here (points to her head and then downwards), but yeah, of course in the structuring of work I do these drawings and notes and I think it was - it brought to them another way of reading or understanding the form, like eventually coming to my work. Also I think for me what's nice about the notebooks is that it doesn't allow - randomness; there is a certain effort with a process and that is notated and that is not just - okay, I just felt like doing this today and that tomorrow. So it was just a way to expand the work just beyond the setting but maybe, Zasha was the one who was most - working - I think, on these drawings on the wall. So, would you like to say something about what you're trying to do here or...
Zasha: I don't know, but, of course, we're not artists. Some of us, maybe, sometimes wear that hat but a lot of the times...I work with curating where you feel the kind of - need, to take the pressure of convincing off the artist but to take that on as something personal, once (?) you yourself are convinced. And you want to convince...
And it is also a way to explore...(indistinct)...how dance is so much about presence, which we hadn't even begun to see before she came to Bombay.
Zasha explains that they brought Padmini to Bombay out of the desire to see her compositional process but also to help them formulate other ideas, for instance their relationship to performance art. She refers to two student-artists from JJ who came in and created mobile artworks suspended from the high asbestos-roofed ceiling of the warehouse, that almost function as a curatorial comment, not in the form of text, but in the form of a visual. She says that they chose some of the most expressive drawings and notes from Padmini's notebooks to use on the walls.
Padmini says it might be interesting to know what the audience made of these interventions.
Audience member 5: It's interesting and important to try to contextualise a performance with the audience, or perhaps it's not necessary or important but it's interesting...(indistinct)...they give the audience a little bit more...they give the audience some insight on where the performer is coming from - by showing your sketches. But I don't know if these particular sketches give us enough information - I understood that they were related to your performance particularly and they weren't simply there or to do with some other performance. I'm not sure - it's interesting - maybe it's something that is a little bit new to try and contextualise a performance by giving visual clues...two-dimensional. In this case (pointing in the direction of the spirals cascading down from the ceiling), three-dimensional. I think the sketches seem more relevant than the sculptures which seem a little bit - decorative. ...okay, they're lovely, but I didn't have the feeling that the performer or choreographer has made them.
(someone responds to this, and she continues)...no, no, I knew that. I could understand that right away. So I'm not sure about the...yeah, maybe someone else would like to continue the conversation (looks around hopefully)...
Sumesh:..visual clues are very interesting in the sense of the discursive element they bring and the discussion starts and if you were to have a conversation, for me, it's much more easy a visual; like I...(indistinct)...more to think visually rather than the text or the lecture. So for example when I write, I write from my visual memory rather than a literal memory and that discursive element is something which is very interesting to me...(indistinct)...that conversation starts, and I think the clues were there for questions like this to come up, you know, and that the conversation would bring out an answer.
Padmini (in response to a question she is asked by someone in the audience): ...not like properties but I work quite a lot with light. And sometimes the light is also an object on stage. So for this performance, there was a row of - like a whole wall of HMIs on the floor that would periodically burn out the vision of the body, so we were playing really with this thing...the image almost disappears and it comes back. And there were also other elements - sometimes I do, like almost very near the floor of the performance...but another - could be a row of light. And these are - this I play with. But, you know, this is my first time to really go a bit deeper with - which is nice also, but I think that, yeah, as a creator, often you are not; it brought some thoughts to me about - after I sent them these notes from the book I thought - well, I should take it a bit more seriously and the next piece I make, maybe I should be more neat or more, you know, I should put more detail into the notes. And then I was looking for notes from my old pieces and most of them - the books had got wet and they were fungusy, and in actual fact I realised it was actually - maybe it's very important to keep this material, because there's no other way of notating - I mean, I have films, but not really...so, it made me also think about - because there's been so much work in notation in dance. That I think that - creators need to think not only about the notating but - as Shaina is here - archiving; I think these are all things that, yeah, we need to, I think, think about a little bit more. Yesterday we went to see Astad; of course, we've seen filmic work of him over the last five or six years, but I think the most interesting work of him, you know, which was in the seventies and eighties is only now like still image. And there's not much filmic material which I felt yesterday was actually sad, because that's what I really - this Astad I know but I really wanted to see Astad in the seventies. So I think that it made me think - maybe I have not paid enough attention to...(indistinct)...a bit haphazard...(indistinct).
Audience member 5, bringing up something else that has caught her interest:...the very sensitive nature of communicating the translation process between the creator of an artwork, whether it's in movement or another form and the presenters or curators of that creation and in terms of our...(indistinct)...those two parties' responsibility to communicate well; as you said, what do I send to my presenters and how do the presenters/ curators receive that, translate, edit , ask for other information or if this is part of what emerges as the entire presentation or context that is given. I mean that your artwork is your work, I think, but the context which ranges from everything from - which sketches are shown, if there's sculpture and that sculpture - what is it like, how many, what's the floor like...it's a very subtle, delicate operation of how does one, or how to create a system of translation and presentation...
accessing new work
Padmini: It's not easy; I fully agree with you but I think that - I think one has to start this somewhere. Already...there has not been that much curiosity from other sectors of art towards dance and I think for me I see this as a nice start because I'm quite tired of sitting in dance conferences talking about which Bharatanatyam varnam came before another one - you know, the same, very boring kind of discussion, you know, whether it's dance or not. And I think for me it's - I came, we didn't really know what to expect; we had a day to really build the space and to just put together, really, the floor. And I think we also never imagined it being perfect or the ideal...I think it was just the real desire to do this, also from the four of them. And a real curiosity from my part to just...to respond to this desire. And at least now, you saw me, but perhaps not for another ten years.
Nida: I have a very basic question.
...watching performance, I mean, a - it kind of seems (?) to draw attention to your own body and then it also maybe...(indistinct)...or think about the fact that we can take time. And we've been speaking about speed, and rather than spiralling into slowness again, maybe we can speak about speed and containing time in a way that you would perhaps want to.
Padmini: Yeah. There was a conference in Bangalore in January. It was three days; discussing the body - different aspects. There was one day where the focus was body movement, and a very interesting philosopher who's now in Manipal, Sundar Sarukkai (turns in the direction of Zasha and Sumesh, half-affirming, half-asking - you know his work). He spoke on body movement. And it was very interesting. Of course Sundar tends to get a bit political in his 'quest' sort of way. But we started to talk about what is a natural movement and what is forced. And is the body as object in its natural form inert, or not inert? And I think these are very interesting - were very interesting discussions for me to have. Simply because they're so complex - where does one start it?
body as object
But to bring us back into today's work; I think for me because one of the starting thoughts which came actually...you, know, when we talk about solo dancers in Bharatanatyam, we often say the body is 'objectified', whatever this means. So for many years when I was working with Chandralekha, she said to us, "I don't want to objectify the body. The body must be alive on stage. Don't objectify it." So this 'objectify' was a big part of it. In later conversations, again with Chandra, we talked about these forms of solo versus the group work and her strong advice to me always was - don't make a solo because you'll again objectify the body. So...but this time anyhow I decided, for many reasons, to make a solo. So, I thought, okay, why not, I'm going to full objectify; well, not in a way that we say, negatively, but my starting point was the body is an object in space.
And so my starting point was the static point. And then because I was looking for certain parameters of how to carry the space inside the body, it had to be done quite carefully. So when you start from zero then anything you do is faster than zero. So...and this is the way I look into it; the slowing down has always - the opposition inside the body speaking out, you know. It's almost like to do less but for it to work you have to do a lot more. And this is how I think of speed; I don't start with a fast movement and then reduce it to slowness, which could also be an interesing work - sometimes I do it with the group...dancers, but I think to understand slowness fully one has to go from null - from non-movement. At the same time when I say non-movement, one doesn't mean just dead; the juices are still somewhere flowing. This is one way of thinking time, how we think time. In Korea somebody asked me - but how are you pacing yourself; is it through breath? Which is a nice way of thinking it also, but for me it's not really breath. I have another kind of clock ticking inside. It's also very systematic; I finish one movement before I start another, so it just goes very logically.
Nida concludes the second session.