Evolution of a theme
Dancer Ileana melded feminist poetry well with the Chau dance in a well-choreographed piece.
ARTISTIC Dancer Ileana Citaristi goes through intricate movements.
It was way back in 1986 that noted Odissi and Chhau dancer, Ileana Citaristi presented Echo and Narcissus at the Max-Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai as part of the East-West Dance Encounter. It was an innovative choreography that blended the Mayurbhanj Chhau style with the well-known Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus. Arguably the first experimental item in Chhau, it started a trend for so many innovations in the Mayurbhanj Chhau technique.
After two more innovative items over the years The Journey and Images of Change the latest in line of Ileana's choreography is Still I Rise, which makes a strong feminist statement. Inspired by the poem of the black poet, Maya Angelou the dance production taking five stanzas of the poem in three phases conveys the oppression of women, their revolt against societal impositions and their discovery of dignity.
The piece had its maiden presentation at the People's Theatre Festival organised by Natya Chetana at Khurda this year. The festival had its focus on women and so Ileana's piece fitted the bill.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise
So goes the excerpt from Angelou's poem and Ileana's choreography stood out because she used the full expressive power of Chhau to drive home the message in the poem that uses `still I rise' like a refrain underscoring the indomitable spirit of women - oppressed but not wiped out. The first part called `conformity to rules and regulations' had Ileana using a black cloth which symbolised many things: a cleaning cloth, a burden on the back, a noose around the neck, a veil, the nuptial knot, the purdah et al. The same black cloth became the wall of the domestic enclosure, which the woman carries with her wherever she goes. The second part had wild instincts so far suppressed breaking out freely. At the call of the flute (Dionysian flute) dormant instincts awaken and the woman responds to the wildness characterised by a frenetic dance where Chhau movements, body gestures and stances were freely used. The cloth was finally torn signalling a rebirth, a rediscovery of the woman's real self.
So in the third phase dance is serene and slow with Chhau movements merging with creative dance style. The 22-minute solo recital of Ileana had a musical score by Jyotishka Dasgupta.
While the music in the first phase had tribal chanting, the concluding phase had primordial abstract sounds on the keyboard symbolising the woman's regeneration.
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