Pallavi and Space by CHOWK

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On Friday, we stopped by the Gallery Theatre of the National Museum of Singapore for CHOWK’s latest production, Pallavi and Space. I am a huge fan of CHOWK, an Odissi dance company founded by Raka Maitra. Under Maitra’s artistic direction, Chowk has developed a movement vocabulary grounded in Odissi, and has always aimed to expand the genre of Indian dance beyond dichotomies of classical and contemporary. Pallavi and Space was no exception.

A pallavi is traditionally a short “pure dance” item within the traditional Odissi repertoire. Pallavi literally means “blossoming,” and the composition begins with slow, graceful, and lyrical movements of the eyes, neck, torso, and feet, and “blossoms” towards an up-tempo climax. In Pallavi and Space, Maitra, joined by dancers Karishma Nair, Meera Gurumurthy, Namaha Mazoomdar, and Sandhya Suresh, followed this structure, but extended it to the entire one-hour duration of the performance. Pallavi and Space had more movement than a traditional pallavi, and more exploration of the space in which the dance was performed. Pallavi and Space also made use of light and shadow, designed by Josiah Yoong CH, which served to highlight the dancers’ geometric bodies against the the space of the Gallery Theatre, to a brilliant abstract effect. Most striking, however, was the choice of accompanying music—not the traditional Odissi music that usually accompanies pallavi, but a single vocalist (Uma Katju, who was OMG sublime) and a percussionist (Saranjith N.K) playing a mizhavu, a big copper drum played as an accompanying percussion instrument in the several performing arts of Kerala.

We, including The Preschooler, loved it so much. Tickets are available for CHOWK’s 8PM performance TODAY (Saturday). Go!