Bharatanatyam dancer S Chandhini’s ‘Shakthi: The Goddess’ personifies dance as the Goddess

Bharatanatyam classical dance S Chandhini’s four-part performance explores the Goddess Shakthi through the primary colours green, red, blue, and yellow
S Chandhini
S Chandhini

An aspiring bharatanatyam classical dance pours her heart out to the goddess about the things that bother her in life. As the story unfolds through a thematic solo bharatanatyam performance by S Chandhini, we realise there is more to the goddess as she becomes a personification of dance. “Yes, I speak to ‘dance’ who I present as the Goddess, who is also the Shakthi,” says Chandhini as we speak to her ahead of her performance. 

Introducing her show Shakthi: The Goddess, and herself, Chandhini tells us, “The whole concept is an original work created by a first generation, young and aspiring artiste (I) who has just begun to explore the dance industry thus portraying raw emotions that the artiste feels.”

The four-part performance explores the Goddess through the primary colours: Green signifying optimism and harmony; Red symbolising passion and rage; Blue for fragility and trust; and Yellow to denote enlightenment and energy.

The performance begins with admiration towards the Goddess’ characteristics and progresses into questioning as the young dancer is engulfed by self-doubt and realises how differently the Goddess and she are treated by the world despite being the same gender and doing the same things. The performance toggles between Tamil and English, and the script is not poetic and scarcely uses Natya (Indian theatrical) terms so that even audiences from the non-dance sector can experience the performance in its totality.

As Navratri is around the corner, Chandhini says she thought this was the best time to present her dance with the concept of Shakthi. Explaining the same, she says, “I knew for sure that the audience is not going to watch me perform a bharatanatyam repertoire for two hours. So, I thought about presenting a thematic performance. The concept stems from a very personal space. I am not from a dance family; everyone in my family is either an engineer, a doctor, or a lawyer. Luckily, for me, when I said I want to pursue dance, my family had no issues with that. I learned under the same guru for 15 years. Later, I decided to do an MA in performing arts, which I am currently pursuing. Gradually, I noticed that I wasn’t given the opportunities I deserved because I am not from a dance family and because I am not known. So connecting these experiences, the songs I have selected for my performance also reflect the same. I take my queries, my worries to the Goddess, which is dance itself and open a dialogue.”

Chandhini begins with the colour Green and imagines the Goddess as a pillai (child). Elaborating on the same, she says, “There is this dialogue which runs in the narration, that says, ‘I really wish to hold you in my arms forever. But I know when I open my eyes, you will be nothing but something I yearn for’. Another one says: ‘I lose myself reading about you in vast literature as a lover, a mother and a saviour but most of the time in my imagination, you come to play with me as a child…”

As the performance progresses to the colour Red, we come to witness passion and rage. “The performance is more than a feminist perspective of me being treated differently than the Goddess. That is just one part — under rage and passion. Now, there are so many Goddesses of love and beauty. But I was told not to dress up because then guys would get interested! I was also called names just because I fell in love! In my entire career as a dancer, I’ve danced on songs about love and about Krishna falling in love with Radha. There is so much of a difference with respect to how people treat relationships when it is to do with Gods and when they treat the same emotion with respect to humans. They (the society) tell me to shut up when I speak, but when it gets too much to hold and I try to express my thoughts, suddenly I’m called hysterical! But when Goddess Kali shows rage, that’s not hysterical! It hit me hard, and that’s why I have a line in the narration that goes: ‘I’ve danced to songs about you from the time I remember being a dancer, but how come I’ve been called names for the same things the songs speak in glory of you. How are we different?...”

There are more questions Chandhini raises, like, “When I want to pursue something I am passionate about, I’m called unrealistic; but when Goddess Parvati does penance for so many years to attain Lord Shiva, that’s devotion!”

The dancer says she chose the title as Shakthi because it translates to energy and power. “I end the performance by stating: You (Goddess) have created this whole universe, then everything has your essence in it. And whatever has your essence can’t be wrong. Hence, my art is not wrong. I will dance without the fear of judgment. because Shakthi is within every one of us.”

Tickets at Rs 300.
October 17, 7 pm.
At Medai – The Stage, Alwarpet.

Twitter: @rupsjain 

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