Beauty of pure dance

Pallavi And Space features only Singapore-based performers, who will be accompanied by a vocalist and percussionist.
Pallavi And Space features only Singapore-based performers, who will be accompanied by a vocalist and percussionist.PHOTO: BERNIE NG

Chowk Productions reinterprets ancient Indian dance form of Odissi for Pallavi And Space

Raka Maitra, artistic director of nine-year-old dance company Chowk Productions, is clearly excited about her new show.

"It's the first time I have nothing to say. It is pure dance. It is just something that is very beautiful," she says.

Pallavi And Space, which will be presented at the Gallery Theatre in the National Museum of Singapore on March 25 and 26, focuses on choreography, composition and the physicality of the classical form.

Chowk is known for its contemporary works grounded in Odissi training - an ancient form of Indian dance from Orissa, India.

The dance company is producing its own work for the first time. Usually, it is commissioned to do so, but Maitra is hoping to create a "new" classical work that draws on the rigour of Odissi.

Pallavi is traditionally a short "pure dance" item within the traditional Odissi repertoire.


  • WHERE: National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre

    WHEN: March 25, 8pm and March 26, 3 and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $28


Literally meaning "to bloom", the work is celebratory in tone, often starting slowly and gracefully, building up to a faster pace with more complex steps and music.

With Pallavi And Space, the pallavi element spans the entire one-hour duration of the performance. It will also have more movement compared with a traditional pallavi, and more exploration of the space in which the dance will be performed.

It will also not have traditional Odissi music that usually accompanies pallavi.

Instead, the dancers will be accompanied by one vocalist and one percussionist playing a copper drum called the mizhavu.

Maitra, 45, whose past works have dealt with topics revolving around migrant workers and violence, says this new work feels "lighter" in comparison.

She says: "Usually, I get obsessed with the issues that I explore in my work and it pulls me down. With this work, I'm looking at the physicality of the form."

Maitra performs in this new piece alongside four other dancers.

She hopes to present new classical works annually for three consecutive years and has plans to work with Malay percussion instruments for a future piece.

The choreographer, who was born in India and is now a Singaporean, believes in working with home-grown talent instead of bringing in musicians or dancers from India for their specific expertise in Odissi.

Pallavi And Space features only Singapore-based performers and Chowk has worked with sound artists such as Bani Haykal in the past.

Asked if she is rebelling against the traditions of Odissi, she says: "I don't think anything is rebellious any more. I don't have that baggage at all. I go with what I feel like doing.

"If you hold on only to what you've been taught, then you remain in a time warp.

"We have to change according to the environment. I'm true to the form. I don't believe in the paraphernalia."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Beauty of pure dance'. Print Edition | Subscribe