Padme– brain-child of Netherlands-based contemporary (trained in Bharatanatyam) dancer, choreographer Kalpana Raghuraman and India-based contemporary (formerly Bharatanatyam) dancer, choreographer, dance-journalist, dance-producer-presenter Anita Ratnam– has been one of those long-awaited long-advertised contemporary dance productions all over the social (dance) media. December 25th, 7:45 in the morning, Chandralekha’s Spaces– the clay-court of Indian dance performances, looking onto the waves of the Indian Ocean at Besant Nagar, Chennai, was just the apt venue and time for the troupe first time visiting the city– the soft sun and the morning-breeze cleansing the Margazhi frenzy of last evening, the smell of damp leaves and wet sand welcoming us to the sweaty clammy weighty brain-racking physicality that dance is.
I had arrived to Chennai just the day before, after a desperate year-long hunger for watching dance performances. And there it was– fresh and fleshy to be pounced upon– the one that I have been often reading and contemplating about in last few weeks. Padme has been different in many ways. Result of a cross-continental collaboration between Ratnam and Raghuraman, respectively the co-producer along with Korzo Productions and the choreographer of Padme, as well as seven young Classical dancers from Bangalore, keen and excited to travel the new path– Padme has been, from the beginning to the end, a professionally commercial piece promoting the youth as a package along with all its components of freedom, freshness and arrogance, which is often a good thing to some extent.
The program started with a music repertoire titled as Float performed by Anil Srinivasan on the piano and Krishna Kishor on the percussion. I am a regular back-bencher when it comes to music shows, but that day it was not just my intrinsic musical shyness but also the already packed rows of chairs replacing the more frequently present striped carpets at The Spaces. As it happens with music, it was possibly working for some and not for the rest. I was one of the latter. I repeat though– I am really a philistine when it comes to music; besides I might have been too distracted trying to save myself from nature’s well-directed droppings from the overhead greenery. Yet, what put me off that day was not that particular form of art but its presentation in a manner of calculated corporate nicety, even during the Jugalbandi. Somehow it did not fit as a justified inauguration to an experimental art-piece! But then there was the Narthaki booklet in bright red and black with thousand dance anecdotes as well as the inimitable enigma of Anita Ratnam herself with all of her five feet and eight inches to keep my eyes occupied. For such a long time she has been a name to look up to for so many young Classical dancers (including myself, ages back, in a workshop in Kolkata) all over India, providing some of them with space, money and most importantly inspiration to work differently within but at the same time out of the Classical terrains, to come out of the labyrinth of the guru-shishya parampara and claim one’s Art as one’s own. But of course after the claim comes the matter of accepting the responsibility of it. That is where Padme failed.