Padmini Chettur’s “Paperdoll.” Photo by and copyright Jirka Jansch, courtesy Theatre de la Ville.
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006, 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak
Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I’m crawling on your shore.
— Indigo Girls, “Closer to Fine”
(Originally published October 27, 2006.)
PARIS — As inevitable as conflict may seem these days, the world offers choices. Gerard Violette, artistic director of the Theatre de la Ville — arguably the most critical dance presenter in the world — and its two auditoriums, closes his season-opening greetings in this year’s program brochure by quoting from Albert Jacquard’s “My Utopia” (Stock): “Nowadays, most encounters are opportunities for confrontation, struggle, prize-listing. Yet, nothing matters but the possibility to exchange. It is our view of the other that must be transformed. We must no longer consider him as competition…. What I would like to say is you may become what you choose to be. And that other people’s happiness concurs to build one’s own.” To which Violette adds: “‘Other views, exchange, other people’s happiness….’ You’re in a theater.” I read this Wednesday night sitting in TDLV’s 380-seat les Abbesses theater up near the sky in Montmartre, where Padmini Chettur immediately proved the precept in “Paperdoll.”
Based in Chennai in the culturally rich Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Chettur trained in Bharata Natyam and accumulated her experience dancing with the legendary Chandralekha for a decade. She eventually found herself pulled more by pure movement experiments than gender and body politic exploration, and that’s lead her to “Paperdoll” which, for the most part successfully, welds a dance form that too often yields to sloppiness — post-modern — onto bodies trained in a form with a lot more discipline. If modern dance is too often diluted by dancers and choreographers who think it means they don’t have to have training, confusing free-form with lack of discipline, imagine the opposite result — the same vocabulary wielded by dancers with minute and exquisite control — and you have “Paperdoll.”
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