Peculiarly Awkward Grace
Mixed Media, Art inspired by the painitngs of Anjolie Ela Menon
75 mins, 1997


Direction: Ranvir Shah

Choreography: Anita Ratnam & Suraiya

Music: Sriram Narayanan

Anita Ratnam and director Ranvir Shah brought together the three branches of art - painting, dance and music - to create an intriguing combination of the modern and the timeless.

The music combined Balinese tunes, Western instruments and jazz.

Through movements mingling Indian dance and aerobic steps, the performance resurfaced with a new yet organic order, which in itself was.... Peculiarly Awkward Grace.

Back Stage
Anita shares her thoughts on this one-of-a-kind experience: In every collaboration I attempt to cross intellectual frontiers as well as geographic ones. What can I learn, How can I grow? These are my constant questions.

My first interaction with a modern painter was I admit very, very intimidating. Anjolie Ela Menon is a celebrated name in the art world. Her women are glamorous, langorous, wide eyed, slightly sad, long loose hair...elongated fingers held in specific compositions. Her Kerala background emerges in many of her works, which are combined with the wandering eye of a traveller. I too had to become a philosopher without a system. Using many bits of information from our conversations together, I began working on PECULIARLY AWKWARD GRACE.

How did I combine the dynamics of still life and the mobility of the unspoken word? If I remained in the classical Bharatanatyam mode, I could not have explored the range of movement possible to best respond and interpret her work. I became aware of the delicate process of selection. How do two Indian artists make sense of each other's work aesthetically, sensibly? My training in Bharatanatyam had conditioned me to a certain way of moving. But my body was supple enough to attempt many other discoveries...and I, like many urban women went to exercise class, taking calisthenics, yoga and TaiChi for additional strength and flexibility. So I looked at the entire vocabulary of movement that I contained in my body as sedimentation and drew from there.

It was the most difficult 25 minute presentation I had ever done.

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