Kaya Taran (Chrysalis) a film by Sashi Kumar
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Chandralekha - Choreography


Central to the two decades and more of reflection, interrogation, provocation and creation in contemporary dance by Chandralekha, has been the question, "Where does the body begin. and where does it end?"  

Chandralekha with the dancers before the shoot

Her rigorous training in classical Bharatanatyam and a decade-long career as an outstanding soloist in the 1950s, had intensified many disturbing questions she had about the performing scene and the practice of the dance.

Besides, her own reading of original texts is Sanskrit, her extensive knowledge and experience of the complex premises of Indian art, iconography, architecture and craft, her familiarity with the debates and directions of modern art in the West, an her refined political sensibility had combined to make her want to challenge the very context of the form. She was seeking a deeper understanding of the 'politics of the body' as well as all its inherent conditionings, complexes and liberating potentialities.  

Though Chandralekha stopped performing through much of the 1960s and '70s, by the time she re-engaged with group productions in dance in the '80s, her position and statement on the 'politics of the body' was well in place. The eminent Telugu poet and historian Arudra, would even call her work "a manifesto" for an emancipatory politics of the body.

Chandralekha works today with integrating the formal structures and internal strengths of classical forms like Bharatanatyam, the architectonics of concentric energy centers in martial forms like Kalarippayattu, the totalizing philosophy and inner/outer connectivity of therapeutic forms like Yoga and the meditative charge of ritual forms like hasta-mudras (symbolic language of hand-gestures), in order to comprehend and interpret the body in a modern sense. Her work expresses a basic wonder at the complexity of the body, which is the repository of both, poetry and power.  

A major book on her work, Chandralekha: Woman, Dance, Resistance by Rustom Bharucha, was published by Harper-Collins, India, in 1995, with a paperback edition in 1997. Her own poetic work Rainbow On The Roadside was published by Earthworm books, in 2001. Her other published visual books with poetic text include Fire-Counterfire and One More News. She also has the distinction of being a graphic designer with a large number of feminist and art posters to her credit.  

Among the most important artistic voices working out of India, Chandralekha's aesthetics questions the reduction of the body to merely something pretty or ornamental. She celebrates the intense play between the subtle and manifest body and its _expression through purity of line and the extension and dilation of the energy field. Her recent productions have sought to foreground complex ideas of 'femininity'. Her central premise continues to be the essential unity of the body and, within it, the indivisibility of sexuality, sensuality and spirituality.  

Her quest continues: "Where does the body begin. and end"? 

Kaya Taran
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