প্রাতঃকৃত্য / PraatohKrityo : In conversation with Eyezine
Praatohkrityo, a dance performance that premiered at the Academy of Fine Arts, on 21st February and which had its second showing last night, aimed at challenging ‘Hindutva fundamentalism, moral policing, patriarchal oppression and every other mode of oppression faced by all of us every single day.’ The human body is an elemental art form that was pre created before the state came into existence. Praatohkrityo shows how the human body provokes us to deconstruct power structures that the state has imposed on us in the name of culture and civilization.
When two art forms come in touch it results in igniting a revolution that is harmonious and uncontained at the same time. And we cannot alienate one from the other. The lines between dance and the human body blur. Dance being an uninhibited form of art, its relationship with the human body lies in its ability to address and project uninhibition, not just on the self but on the audience as well. The actors explore the dual vulnerability of the body and the self along with the orchestration of live soundscape on stage. What I love about the play and what others may or may not love about the play is that there is a deliberate departure from everyday perceived clarity.
An essential question that haunts the mind of the spectator is since this performance is a break from the normative urban order; does that mean it is a regression into the primitive? Perhaps this very primitive performance that restores ones faith in our senses, and our hands and feet wants to initiate the act of making urban society an outcaste. The performance haunts us with perspectives. How does it involve the audience? Is the audience the voyeur or the viewed? Perhaps the actors are the voyeurs playing with our innermost fears and leaving us in a state of trance?
How does one create the face of art? We even do not know that which is a better myth, the normative order or the human body. Praatohkrityo reminds one of the styles explored by Antonin Artaud, (though Antonin Artuad’s performances took place in more intimate spaces and not on proscenium stage) Pina Bausch and Marina Abramovic’s exploration of ritual and gesture. And ritual is nothing ritual but an attempt to break away from itself. Any form of ritual that comes between the body and the performer is a sin. It must be purged out.
The body is no less an actor any more than the identity that is borne by the body. Humanity is a performance throughout history. Praatohkrityo is an initiation of a performance that defines and defies history, in all its years of revolution.
Interview with team Praatohkrityo
As an actor how do you reconcile yourself with the idea of revolution that has its roots in the human body?
The work of an actor is to act (upon or accordingly) as the situation presents itself—no actor can act upon an idea, it has to be something tangible, palpable, happening in real time and space. Although the revolution does have its roots in the human body but the role of an actor or any artist will be decided when the revolution is here; it can’t be pre-meditated.
What do you have to say about the all female cast as far as the dancing was concerned? What is the relationship between dance and music and how does it orchestrate the interrelationship between the masculine and the feminine?
As females, we have had our share of experiences and that experiential knowledge of everyday sexism, gender discrimination, sexual assault, violence, oppression is unique from what a male ally or male counterpart has faced. And then again, we have, as females, also participated in patriarchy unknowingly, unconsciously—in that our criminality finds solidarity through the way our bodies reacted, acted, moved, touched in those moments—these again will be different from how a male performs those. We have been subjected to perform our designated roles in the gender game and quite unjustly have never been asked whether we wanted to participate or not. From childhood, as a bunch of females we have acted and reacted within a set pattern which is very different from the set pattern that males have—of course, as time went by we negated, unlearned most of those and are still in the process of growing and becoming something else, something that can’t be mapped.
For the dance theatre, five of us have stayed together day in and day out to understand each other psychologically, physically, emotionally. We have had camps where we would wake up in the morning together, and go to sleep together, eat from the same pot, wash our plates, train and rehearse together. The movements that you see on stage have come out of this process of being together in a non-hierarchical space, where structures do not exist. We have had our share of struggles because we don’t have any practical knowledge of or reference to how non-hierarchy actually works within a small collective. We have had fights, breakdowns, and long talks. However all that gave way to moments of relief where when Sreejita broke her nose then Satakashi held her in her arms all the while that she was bleeding. When Priya felt extreme pull in her hamstring then Shruti ran to get a taxi— who were we even five months before? We didn’t know each other that well but what is this that we feel for each other? We come from diverse class-caste backgrounds and have had our share of privileges and discriminations then what is it that binds us together?
It is not just the dancing but this process of sisterhood, extreme empathy, love that we have been able to weave that is where our victory lies. It assures us that such a world is possible where anarchism will win and patriarchy along with all other forms of hierarchy will be smashed.
To answer your second question, should there be any interrelationship between the masculine and feminine? What is masculine and feminine, anyway? We don’t know. We don’t believe in such binaries where dance means women, music mean men—no, that is exactly what we want to dismantle. A happy male dancer should live indiscriminately much in the same manner as a happy female drummer—that’s the world we want.
What style of performance is Praatohkrityo?
Pratohkrityo in Bengali refers to the dump that you take in the morning and any work that you do every day. It follows the style of a dance-theatre. Hence it borrows elements from both dance and theatre. This particular dance theatre has its roots in the urban ritual—where ritual is not just marked by a circumscribed sacred space of a temple, synagogue, church, mosque but the everyday repetition of movements found in our daily urban lives. All across the world the urban life is designed in the same manner, regardless of your class, caste, creed, gender—you wake up, brush your teeth, have breakfast, go to work, come back, eat, sleep –this design, however, always runs the risk of that one individual or several individuals who will stop doing any of these, or instead will do something absolutely different, at any time. The bosses fear those employees, the capitalist is scared of those factory workers— the style of the performance tries to explore these fear of the oppressor as well the oppressed who, at any point, can revolt and yet the revolution is not happening, but it may happen any time now. This risk of extreme uncertainty is what gave birth to Pratohkrtiyo.
What are the influences it draws on?
We are influenced by the works of Pina Bausch, Martha Graham, Teejan Bai. Apart from that, every experience, every touch, smell, paintings, books, poetry, music, film, lovers, violence, comradeship, that has shaped us has their mark on the piece.
How is the genre of Performance Art explored in Praatohkrityo?
We have not explored the genre of performance art here but dance theatre as a form has the flexibility to adopt and engage with any and every art form, Rather as we would like to say – we tried to make an interface between performance art and dance theatre.
By Swastisha Mukherjee
Edited by Pallav Deb