This week, two Sydney-based troupes will take the stage at the National Centre for the Performing Arts’ (NCPA’s) Jamshed Bhabha Theatre with a piece intriguingly titled Chi Udaka. In Japanese, chi means earth, which will be embodied by the explosive power of taiko (or Japanese drums) drumming by the sinewy percussion ensemble of the Taikoz group. Similarly, in Sanskrit, udaka is water and appropriately, dancers from the Lingalayam group will present a fluid and flowing evocation of a synthesis of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi—classical Indian dance forms Lingalayam has been popularizing in Australia for almost three decades. In turn, Taikoz have considerably raised the profile of taiko down under since 1997, developing a strong fan base that patronizes its performances at some of the finest concert halls in Australia, and across the world.
Working in tandem, the two groups created the piece in 2014, making quite a splash at the Sydney Festival that year. Besides the dancers and drummers, there are other players of no mean pedigree in the mix, like singer Aruna Parthiban, cellist John Napier, percussionist Ian Cleworth, and Riley Lee, who plays the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute. More than a run-of-the-mill fusion piece, Chi Udaka represents a special kind of cross-cultural collaboration. The performers play off each together in a manner that could be termed, in local parlance, a jugalbandi of two artistic traditions, of music and dance, and of the elemental cadences innate to earth and water. According to Anandavalli, the artistic director of Lingalayam Dance Company, the piece has created “lines and shapes movement vocabulary that synthesize to form music in dance or dance in music.” Her graceful all-women troupe stands in some contrast to Taikoz’s robust war-like performers with their oversized drums, yet this is a piece that has been singled out for praise especially because of the exhilarating synergy on display between such disparate forms.
In India, Chi Udaka is being showcased as part of the Hindu November Fest. Before it arrives in Mumbai, it will have played at Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad and Chennai, although the opening performance at Bengaluru’s Chowdiah Memorial Hall had to be cancelled inadvertently. One of the city’s primary proscenium venues, the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, lends itself wonderfully to cross-genre pieces, as we saw during The Park’s New Festival last year, with the evocative Torabaka, in which Kathak exponent Akram Khan and flamenco dancer Israel Galván negotiated a common turf in contrasting ways. Similarly, with its vibrant and celebratory set-pieces, Chi Udaka is quite likely to prove an excellent evening out for Mumbai audiences of all ages.
Chi Udaka, on 29 November at 7.30pm, Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai. Tickets, Rs400-2,000, available at in.bookmyshow.com