JALIKA Play Review

Manvi Ranghar

 JALIKA Review
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JALIKA play review English play review

JALIKA is physical/dance theatre that uses contemporary dance, mime, aerial acrobatics, and props to build on its theme of self-discovery that transcends image. The production is by the duo Peeya Rai Choudhuri and Tino Sanchez of The Omaggio Performing Company. Peeya Rai Choudhuri has evoked a narrative to punctuate the movements of eight young dancers, intending to express the angst and confusion of hiding, or "wearing a veil". Four lamps hung from the ceiling, used as both lighting and harness, giving off a half moon glow. The dancers, dressed in white, with white paint on their faces, episodically moved in the intended expressions of daily life. The team lined up as the narrative heightened, and the masks were wiped off. A flurry of predetermined movements characterised this hour-long piece.

The dancers' skill levels were technically sound, and one must give credit to Omaggio's initiative to develop and perfect this young talent. Moments like the bringing out of a pole, which was then used as if to carry a carcass, with a dancer in the middle engaged in a kind of animalistic scamper, was an evocative and original unit of this performance. Omaggio was formed in 2013 in Goa. There, Tino Sanchez and Peeya Rai Choudhuri trained the artists in residency for five years. Their training shows and one was witness to a fresh group of professional dancers, demonstrating an appreciable level of skill and range. However, range for the sake of range, without any deep insight, loses its ability to connect with its audience in a more powerful or impactful way. It then becomes more a show of skill rather than a conversation about the ethos of the performance. The dancers danced, but were not filled by the tale they were telling.

Peeya Rai Choudhuri mentioned in an interview with DNA that the script "reinforces the dance narrative and helps in forming a structure for the audience to follow." One empathised with the narrative, but what it seemed to lack was a subtle touch. The piece needed to abandon itself to emotion and not rely on explanation. Conflict between identity and image is something the performance already had, ironically enough. It gave the sense of "being performed". The narrative took itself too seriously. This was felt most in the repetition of "my duality, my multiplicity". It eventually fell flat. In spite of Peeya Rai Choudhuri's skill, a sense of vulnerability was lacking; it all felt too crafted.

Mentions of profiles, likes and other digital age colloquialisms felt forced as well. The narrative left no room for subtext. Where JALIKA did excel was in lighting design, with the lamps becoming characters in the piece. Lighting was used intelligently and had its own movement to complement the movement of the dancers. The costumes were designed well, with strategically placed tassels to flow with the movements of the dancers.

The music composed by Iván Caramés Bohigas, Daniele Corsi and Owen Belton was a hit and miss. While the slow romantic parts felt feeble and uncomfortable, the more harsh sounds that faded in and overlapped, were reminiscent of Clint Mansell and fit the show better, giving it the hint of contemporariness it occasionally lacked.

There is a glimmer of promise and possibility in the dynamics that the creator duo of this piece share. Their intentions are in the right place, both as performers, and as exponents of a new generation of contemporary dance theatre in India.

*Manvi Ranghar is an actor, writer and environmentalist from Mumbai. She studied Literature and values freedom.

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