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Staging Peace in Times of War
Teesri Duniya presents the World Premier of a new and exciting dance theatre
A Leaf in the Whirlwind
Montreal Sept 19, 2007 -- Teesri Duniya Theatre opens its groundbreaking 2007-2008 season with the production of a dance-theatre presentation called A Leaf in the Whirlwind which has been adapted into a play by Jodi Essery from the original story by Malayalam writer Lalithambika Antherjanam.
Teesri Duniya Theatre is pleased to be working with director Aparna Sindhoor, a choreographer and dancer originally from Mysore, India who now lives in Boston, MA.
Genocide, torture, forced displacement, ethnic cleansing – one of the most pressing yet inadequately addressed human catastrophe of the past century has been using women’s bodies, as the primary battleground, by turning political rivalry into acts of sexual enslavement and ethnic cleansing.
A Leaf in the Whirlwind recounts the story of a woman who, bearing a child of a rape that occurred during wartime has fled from an unnamed place at an unspecified time in history – a recurring result of war between factions and countries across the world.
Aparna Sindhoor directs an international cast which includes two of India’s most highly accomplished performers Anil Natyaveda and Pratheesh Sivanandan along with local Montreal actors and dancers trained in traditional Indian dance Bharatanatyam and modern dances. Together they introduce audiences to an innovative new form of dance theatre rarely seen in Canada.
Aparna Sindhoor’s dance theatre is a challenging art-form which combines artistic beauty with exploration of social and political effect of war, genocide, rape, displacement and exile. With a transnational and multicultural cast, A Leaf in the Whirlwind promises to be captivating and questioning at the same time.
Featuring a team of internationally acclaimed, award winning artists:
Director and Choreographer: Aparna Sindhoor
Adaptation byJodi Essery. (based on stories of Lalithambika Antherjanam)
Performers: Anil Natyaveda, Pratheesh Sivanandan, Aparna Sindhoor, Marjolayne Auger, Tomomi
Morimoto, Michelle Parent
Set and Lighting Design: Noush Anand
Music: Patrick Graham, Jean-François Garneau
October 10 – 28, 2007, Preview October 9, 2007
MAI (Montreal, arts Interculturels), 3680 Jeanne Mance, T.514 982 3386
Tickets : Regular $20
Reduced (seniors, professional artists, Accès Montréal) $18 Student $15
A co-presentation with The MAI – Montreal, arts interculturels
About the play
Lalithambika Antherjanan’s short story A Leaf In the Whirlwind is the story of a woman refugee who, in an unnamed country during an unnamed war, must come to terms with her own rape, and the child conceived of that act, as she struggles to reconcile her idealism with a world turned incomprehensible; her feelings of shame with feelings of hope, of love for her child. When a child asks, ‘Where do I come from? To whom do I belong?’, how can we answer those questions? What does it mean to be alone? What does it mean to resist? How does the body move on?
In the work of Aparna Sindhoor, the body resists by moving, and this collaboration continues to be an education in how the body stands up to the world. It would seem that the greatest resistance to the incomprehensible is truth, and in Leaf , the mother begins by telling her child the truth about her beginnings, about her history. In the face of the unspeakable, she speaks. In the face of political rhetoric, the refugees dance. In the face of death, the women live.
And how to tell this story? It is bodies; it is dance; it is music; it is colors, song, language, story itself. From the contributions of many, one thing. From many languages, many sources, one story. And in the story of one woman, the story of many. The process of collaboration on the Leaf project has been as motley as the sources assembled to tell the story. We began with Antherjanan’s story, and Aparna’s ideas about dancing it. Aparna also brought with her first person testimonials about womens’ experiences with war, a response to 9/11 in the form of a poem by a woman poet in New York, newspaper clippings.
Over a 2 year period, I contributed some text. Dramaturge Laurie Stevens asked questions, and Aparna challenged ideas, all over the internet. We got together for a 3-day workshop with musician Patrick Graham and a group of local dancers. We bounced ideas off one another in movement, and my words all went up for grabs again.
More time passed. More ideas passed through our email accounts. And finally, when we were together in one room at the beginning of September, most of that got thrown out the window, only to crawl back in through side doors, through the floorboards. And we will continue to pass the story among ourselves now, as I learn to understand dance, and the dancers learn the movements, and the stage manager tries to put what he is seeing in the context of what is on the page. And then you will come to the theatre, and we will pass the story around some more. It is an arduous task, but in the end incredibly rich, and for that I’m very grateful.
When reading Antherjanan’s story alone, in looking at the world as only one person, it is possible to be overwhelmed; to see the sadness, the gravity, the pain. Those things are there, yes, and they cannot be ignored, they cannot be hidden. The gift of this collaboration on A Leaf in the Whirlwind has been to see that, when we are together trying to tell the story with all of our various voices and tools and talents, we cannot help but also see the celebration, the humour, the continuity. And so it is that the woman in our story can be brought to life, to consciousness; finally, to the words and movements of her own story. It goes on. That continues to be a wonderfully unexpected path through darkness.
Jodi Essery – playwright
Interview with Aparna Sindhoor and Rahul Varma
Writer Aparna Sanyal recently interviewed Aparna Sindhoor, choreographer and dancer, and Teesri Duniya Theatre’s artistic director, Rahul Varma. After having seen the visually striking A Story and A Song, which launched the Teesri Duniya season, Ms. Sanyal sat down with Aparna and Rahul to seek their thoughts on their upcoming production, A Leaf in the Whirlwind. This is an edited excerpt of the interview.
Q: Aparna, you are considered a pioneer of the dance theatre form, of which A Leaf in the Whirlwind is an example. Could you explain how this form differs from conventional theatre? And what makes your work distinct?
AS: The term dance theatre is used in different ways, but for me it is theatre, with all its elements, heavily loaded with dance. Conventional theatre has people playing fixed characters, while in my work I go in and out of several characters. I mainly work with women’s stories, and I can’t come to terms with self-obsessed dancing. This may be due to my bharatnatyam training, which allows me to be a solo performer while changing roles.
“I can’t come to terms with self-obsessed dancing.” Aparna Sindhoor
But if I need to tell the story of a woman who is raped, or in a refugee camp (as in A Leaf in the Whirlwind), conventional bharatnatyam techniques are not enough. The roles traditionally given in bharatnatyam involve a woman pining for a man, who eventually becomes God. I need to explore beyond that. That’s where I use other theatrical techniques like martial arts, yoga, singing, speaking, jumping, cart wheeling. The notion of a woman expressing her own sensuality was a no-no in bharatnatyam for a long time, though not originally; I want to reclaim those things, and add my own vision of movement.
RV: I see great potential for this art form. It’s new primarily because it involves a new aesthetic and adds to our identity. It challenges the linearity of drama. It uses and converges many styles, which communicates an idea through beauty and artistry. That is what makes her art distinct.
Q: Tell me about the origins of A Leaf in the Whirlwind.
AS: My husband had written haikus on refugees, and I was working on a piece called Refugee Ragas. I was reading a lot of literature on refugees when I happened to see the story (A Leaf in the Whirlwind) by Lalithambika Antherjanam. She is from Kerala, from a traditional Brahmin family, and grew up secluded from the rest of the world. She is a very powerful writer, but it all comes from her life. Then suddenly there is this one story which is about the India-Pakistan partition. I don’t think she, as a South Indian person, went through the same experiences as a person in Punjab who crossed the border. But she has written it as though she was in the camp. Well, I thought, this could be the final big piece about war and women.
“The notion of a woman expressing her own sensuality was a no-no in bharatnatyam for a long time…I want to reclaim those things.” Aparna Sindhoor
I collected a lot of testimony from women in Gujarat, in Palestine – not personally, but through interviews and books – and I thought the story was open enough that I could set it in any refugee camp. Now it is set in a camp with different men and women telling their stories. But there is one main story of a woman who is pregnant through a rape caused by the war. She is trying to kill the baby. Eventually, she decides to give birth to her daughter, and change the world.
RV: I think the idea of focusing on war through the perspective of peace kept getting stronger at Teesri. When George Bush’s war broke out, we decided to ‘stage peace in times of war’. As an artistic director, I am interested in doing something others choose not to do. I am disturbed by the arts scene, which recreates the same sensationalism and soap operas. Every war has an effect which is hardly talked about – its effect on women and children. Hollywood is fixated on a macho perspective: destroying a country and coming back to a hero’s welcome. What about children who have been destroyed, women who have been raped or enslaved for sexual purposes? Why is it that in every war a woman’s body becomes a battleground? Rwanda, Bosnia, India-Pakistan…it just keeps happening. It’s a dark subject. And Aparna’s form is the best for handling subjects of this dark nature, by telling stories of justice, stories of survival, through the prism of beauty.
Q: Lastly, what has your experience in Canada, and with Teesri Duniya Theatre, been like?
AS: We feel the quality of audience in Montreal is very good. And in general, with Teesri, there is this sense of wanting to do the best artistically. This is why I have put myself here. I like the fact that the majority of the words are in English, but none of us, none of the dancers, are native English speakers. This is very beautiful for me, in terms of the different accents. Most of the time when I’m on stage, I’m the only one with an accent. And Teesri is like my second family.
RV: For me, this is a deeply emotional event. It is the first time in the history of Teesri - 25 years - that our major play is being directed by a woman of color [Aparna Sindhoor].
About the Artists
Aparna Sindhoor (director, choreographer, performer)
Aparna Sindhoor specializes in a new form of dance theatre that challenges the boundaries of conventional dance-drama since 1994 while maintaining its performative beauty. She has created 15 full-length dance theatre works including “Hunt”, “Refugee ragas” and “River Rites”. She has traveled across North America, Europe and India with her dance theatres, and has been invited to perform at prestigious events including the Jacob's Pillow, New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas, World Social Forum and the New World Theater (Amherst, MA). In Montreal Aparna Sindhoor has worked with Teesri Duniya Theatre, in the company’s recent play Bhopal. She is the Artistic Director of Aparna Sindhoor Dance Theatre.
Critics have hailed Aparna Sindhoor as a powerful new voice for creating contemporary works of extraordinary artistry that challenge the boundaries of traditional Indian dance and yet contribute to strengthen the tradition. Trained in Bharatanatyam as well as a vocalist and an actor, Aparna Sindhoor amalgamates all these distinct art forms into a unified whole. She is currently on tour with her production of “A Story and A Song”.
Jodi Essery (playwright)
Jodi is a co-founder of Montreal/Brooklyn-based international touring ensemble SaBooge Theatre, and acts as the general manager, writer and dramaturge for the company. She has been a member of the ensemble through all six of the company’s original creations since 1999.
Jodi resides in Montreal, where she recently retired as the theatre columnist for the city’s alternative weekly the HOUR. She is currently directing and co-devising poet and performer Talya Rubin’s solo show The Girl With No Hands, and is writing SaBooge’s Speak Easy, which will perform through Centaur Theatre’s Brave New Works Initiative in October 2007. Jodi is completing her first year of an MFA in Creative Writing through UBC’s optional residency program.
A theatre and education graduate of Queen’s University, Jodi has taught at the Queen’s Department of Drama, and Faculty of Education, at the International School of Brussels, the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, and at the National Theatre School of Canada. As a writer she has been published in several journals in Canada including Quarry, qwerty and Canadian Forum, and is included in the anthology New Canadian Poetry. Her script for SaBooge’s Fathom, (winner of a Montreal English Critic’s Award for Best New Text) appears in the Summer 2007 edition of Canadian Theatre Review.
Anil Natyaveda, (ensemble)
Anil is a dancer, choreographer and a teacher from Triuvanathapuram, India and is one of the best Kalarippyattu artists. Kalarippyattu is a martial art form from the province of Kerala, India. Anil is also an accomplished dancer trained in Bharatanatyam, Mohini Attam, Kuchupudi and contemporary dance. He has performed all over the world including at the Edinburgh Dance Festival. For the past four years he has been working with Aparna Sindhoor Dance Theatre.
Pratheesh Shivandan, (ensemble)
Pratheesh is a dancer and a teacher from Triuvanathapuram, India. He is an active practitioner and an accomplished dancer trained in Bharatanatyam, Mohini Attam, Kuchupudi and Kalarippayattu form of dance. Pratheesh has performed extensively in major dance events in India and festivals all over the world. Like Anil, Pratheesh has been working with Aparana Sindhoor Dance Theatre for the past four years.
After 10 years of figure skating and 12 years of ballet training in Tokyo, JAPAN, TomomiMorimoto joined COMPANY EAST in 1998. While learning a wide range of dance forms (modern, contemporary, Jazz, dance-meditation and physical theatre) from Kenji Kawarasaki, Hiroshi Jin and Sho Tohno, she performed in company's repertoires (Medea, The golden pavilion, Macbeth, ZEN). Also she was a lead dancer of TOKYO TRIANGLE (illusion of love, Tantra vision1&2 directed by Kenji kawaraski). Moving to Montreal in 2004, she has worked with Mariko Tanabe and Eluzion. In 2007, she started a new theatre and dance company LATE PRODUCTION with Joshua Lamb. Its first production was her choreography, Haunted Womb Tour/Manège de Lutérus Hanté (Directed and composed by Maya Kuroki) and received the Tangente Award at Montreal Fringe Festival 2007. Constantly pushed by the idea that live performance gives a chance to directly share the vibration and energy from the body which holds history, with audience, she believes that various differences are the hope that has arisen as a same human being, to make us realize that there is more than one way to live.
Marjolayne Auger (ensemble)
Since 2001, she has taught tango in many places, and performs and choreographs for different argentine tango orchestras. She worked at La Ville de Montréal as a coordinator of dance and theatre festivals. She worked on a multidisciplinary project, Los Angeles de la calle, in Mexico in 2003. She received her bachelor in dance from Uqam in 2004 and did a residency in Cuba with Danza Corpus dance company and performed in Narcotico at El Favorito theatre. Recently, she participated in the Grassohopper dance exchange, The Art, Journées internationales de la danse, Forum social Québécois.. Her research and choreography involves contemporary dance, Argentinian tango and folklore.
Michelle Parent (ensemble)
Having graduated in 2006 from the Superior Theatre School (UQAM), Michelle Parent is a promising actress. Being interested in movement and in cultural melting, she did a six month training period in India to learn Barathanatyam and Kalarippyattu. Recently, she played in Push Up directed by Christian Popescu and danced for choreographer Alain Francoeur in Mind Factory. Later this season, she will play in a one-person show called La Peau d Élisa by Carole Frechette – a work that amalgamates voice and body expression.
Anoushka Anand (set, light and costume designer)
Anoushka graduated from the Design for the Theatre program, with a minor in Film Animation, from Concordia early this summer. Her last year at university was occupied with the production design of a community performance event that took place in various locations in Montreal, both indoor and outdoor, as part of the Rights Here! Theatre and Law for Human Rights project. Previous to that, she designed the set for Geordie’s 2005 annual fundraiser, To Kill a Mockingbird, and assisted environmental lighting designer, Linnaea Tillet on the Senses and the City exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. During her degree, she designed the lights for Motel Chronicles (Sam Shepard) and the costume for Blood and Ice (Liz Lochhead). This is Aoushka’s second adventure with Aparna Sindhoor, having recently designed the lights for the Montreal remount of A Story and a Song.
Patrick Graham: (musician)
Canadian multi-percussionist Patrick Graham blends tradition, experimentation, composition and improvisation into a exceptionally versatile approach that blurs musical boundaries. Patrick's cross-cultural percussion style reflects his training in Western classical and contemporary music and his extensive explorations of Mediterranean, Irish, South Indian, and Japanese rhythms, including studies with teachers Pierre Béluse (Montréal), Glen Velez (New York), Carlo Rizzo (Grenoble), Trichy Sankaran (Toronto), and Taichi Ozaki (Tokyo). As the creator of projects such as the duo GaPa with Ganesh Anandan, and as a collaborator with groups such as Autorickshaw, On Ensemble, and La Nef, Patrick's unique sound reflects his experience in multiple genres of music and his profound fascination with the power of rhythm. Patrick is an endorser of Cooperman Drums and Schlagwerk Percussion. www.patrickgrahampercussion.com
Jean-François Garneau (composer)
After having traveled and learned a few languages, Jean-François Garneau worked mostly in Montreal as a scriptwriter for television and a theater composer. He was a member of Le Grand Cirque Ordinaire and wrote music for Les Fées ont soif, a feminist play by Denise Boucher. He also wrote songs, played the guitar and sang with different groups. Still involved in music, he recently produced Joanne Griffith's first CD (check www.joannegriffith.com) and is preparing the next one, while writing fiction drawn from his travels. He comments on life as we hear it on his blog, written in French, at fenetreovale.blogspot.com.
Jonathan Rondeau (stage manager)
Having earned degrees in theatre performance and communications studies at Concordia University, Jonathan has since been working as an actor in film and television and a stage manager for the theatre. Recent stage management work includes touring all over Quebec, Canada, Wales and England for Montreal's Youtheatre (where he also serves as production manager) as well as a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The summer tends to find him working for Just for Laughs, where he has produced three editions of Comedia, their film festival. This is Jonathan's first project with Teesri Duniya.
Jody Burkholder – Production Manager/Technical Director
Jody is proud to return to Teesri Duniya theatre for their 2007-2008 season as their Production Manager. He has also worked in the capacity of Technical Director for various companies around Montreal including: MainLine Theatre, The Saidye Bronfman Centre, Imago Theatre, infinitheatre and John Rennie High School. He was recently nominated for a MECCA in lighting design for Fallen Angel's Heaven and will reprise his role as Lighting Designer on their fall production of Quills. He enjoys mixing live sound in his spare time. He does it all for Poe.
“Peace by Peace Women Speak” Notes from Director Aparna Sindhoor
Over the last decade, I created a Trilogy of Peace, in the dance-theater form that my co-director/collaborator, S.M. Raju and I have been working on since 1996. The peace trilogy consisted of “Peace by Peace Women Speak” based on Haikus by S.M. Raju, “When I was most Beautiful” based on a Japanese poem by Noriko Ibaraki and “Refugee Ragas” inspired by a poem by Mohamud Darwish and a 16th century Kannada poem. In one of my discussions with Rahul, I told him that A Leaf in a Whirlwind would be the natural extension of the Trilogy of Peace project. So we embarked on this project together, and Rahul invited Laurie Stevens and Jodi Essery to join in.
The idea of A Leaf in a Whirlwind as a dance-theatre, sprouted in my mind, when I was collecting testimonies by women about war and torture, and read Lalithambika Antherjenam’s moving story set in a refugee camp. The story haunted me, not only because it was told in a simple and powerful way but also because it led my imagination to explore a full-length dance theater that would bring together several war stories told from a women’s perspective.
How would I as a choreographer express the physical and mental torture that war inflicts? How would the physical movement that embodies violence look on stage? How do I as an artist, express the pain and torture of our characters that would not depress but encourage our audience to so something about it. How do I as an artist, connect to my audience telling tales of war and sorrow without depressing them. The challenge for me is to express the celebration of life even through the tales of death and violence. Creating a new medium to express what I want in a performance is a major element of all my works. Dance as a physical and expressive movement is foundation to my style but I need to explore further and go beyond the conventional to experience newer dimensions of the form and my vision. To achieve that I use everything in which I see arts: dance, music, rhythm, yoga, aerial dance, martial arts, spoken word, narration, theatre, memory, and much more. It is complex yet challenging, and satisfying experience like the life itself.
This exploration has been only possible with like-minded artists who have inspired and worked with me over the years: S.M. Raju, support in research, my company artists, Anil Kumar and Pratheesh Sivanand, who are two of India’s foremost contemporary dancers, Jodi Essery, the script writer, Laurie Steven, meeting of the cultures with the cast and crew of A leaf in the Whirlwind, and above all Teesri Duniya Theater and Rahul Varma for taking up the production to make it a reality.
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